Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’
And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’
Keep to what you have been taught and know to be true, wrote St Paul. We all have truths, values and practices that have been handed down to us and which we have decided are true, worth preserving and wise, a wisdom that leads to salvation. St Paul describes our duty to proclaim the message of Christ, to insist on it even when it is unwelcome. He tells us to be patient and to have the intention of teaching and calling to obedience and that we can use scripture to refute error and falsehood. The scriptures are inspired by God he tells us. They are our guide in living the Christian life and our way to holiness. Reading the Scriptures, even listening carefully to them at mass and using the words of the bible stories as springboards for prayer is a basic Christian discipline. The Scriptures challenge us. The stories can change our ways and assumptions. The spirit can reach us and work within us through these stories changing us into whatever is most acceptable to God.
Another basic tool of the Christian life, prayer, is recommended in the Gospel. We need to pray continually and never lose heart. Saint Luke’s gospel shows us a Jesus who prays continually. Like the story of Moses lifting up his hands in prayer and being supported in prayer by others, we too can participate in the work of prayer and in the fruits of that petition and praise. It is not a matter of twisting God’s arm to sort out the world as we in our wisdom have decided. Prayer is rather the attempt to sort out our response to the world as it is dealt to us. Prayers of petition are fine but God’s ways and words and will must always be paramount and it is we who must mould ourselves in the image of God, not God who must adapt to us.
The lesson of the parable of the unjust judge is not that God is like that person. It is rather a gospel of contrast. The point is to show how unlike the unjust judge God is and how much God will respond to us and there is a promise to respond in justice and in haste if only we have the time and the commitment and the interest to turn our attention away from ourselves and onto the God who sustains us. Faith alone impressed Jesus. All else failed to move him, not wealth or might or fame or power. The question then posed by Jesus remains to haunt us, ‘When the Son of man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’