For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior carrying the sharp sword of your authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth.
For the whole creation in its nature was fashioned anew, complying with your commands, so that your children might be kept unharmed. The cloud was seen overshadowing the camp, and dry land emerging where water had stood before, an unhindered way out of the Red Sea, and a grassy plain out of the raging waves, where those protected by your hand passed through as one nation, after gazing on marvellous wonders. For they ranged like horses, and leaped like lambs, praising you, O Lord, who delivered them.
Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'"
While most of us will occasionally go the extra mile today's texts ask for fidelity over the long haul, not necessarily the single heroic act but the heroism of staying with the daily routine of duty. What we are expected to do seems very ordinary, but it takes God's extraordinary grace to keep at it.
We may seem to be getting nowhere and yet we can accomplish much, by simply keeping the family intact or the business afloat or the parish functioning as a place of prayer and goodwill. The gospel addresses this paradox of seeming stuck and yet reaching our goal, as exemplified in the widow who kept coming to the judge, demanding her rights. Finally the judge's patience was wearing out, and so settled matters in her favour. Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, is another patroness of persistent people. We can accomplish very much by our daily routine.
This final verse in the gospel is odd. No other parable in the gospels ends on a question-mark. When he comes, will he find faith on the earth? Originally it probably referred to the long trial of the Roman persecution but it speaks to any number of situations. One of the best responses to the question is to be involved in evangelism, each of us in our own way. Then when the all-powerful Word bounds from his heavenly throne, we will find ourselves ready and waiting to greet him.
It was the temptation of believers to lose heart that Jesus had in mind when he spoke the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Here was a woman who refused to lose heart, even though she was facing a judge who neither feared God nor had any respect for other people. This powerless widow was being faced down by a powerful judge; the odds were all stacked against her. But she refused to give up because she knew that justice was on her side. She refused to lose heart. Jesus puts this woman before us as a model of persevering faith in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles.
At the end of his comment on this parable, Jesus asks the question, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?" Jesus is asking if he will find the kind of resilient faith that typified the widow or, rather, will he find that people have lost heart and given up the struggle to believe. God's faithfulness is not in question. The question mark is over our faithfulness. Jesus spoke this parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. In other words, the primary way we keep faithful when times are difficult is through prayer.