You’ve seen them on their TV shows. The judges in official black robes, complete with the courtroom set, adjudicating cases of all kinds, and banging their gavels with authority. Add to them the various judges brought in by the cable news outlets to lend their expertise in comments on any number of headline-making stories. Audiences give these last special attention even if they show up without the robes and the courtroom benches.
We know from Scripture that Our Lord Jesus did not have much time for judges and even lawyers. It seems that the ones He met were either shysters or hypocrites. Naturally, His disdain does not permit us to generalize negatively all our present-day judges and lawyers, although often enough the lesser members of their group generate negative headlines of their own.
This weekend’s Gospel selection finds Jesus telling His own parable that features an unjust judge who nonetheless renders a just decision in a case brought by a widow. Bear in mind that such a woman was rather powerless in the patriarchal society Jesus inhabited. What makes the judge step out of character? The persistence of the widow. Jesus goes on to say that very quality should mark our prayer.
The First Reading from Exodus puts Moses’ persistence on display, in his persistence in holding up the rod of God over his army to encourage them, even though as a “senior citizen” he needed youthful help in keeping his arms lifted.
We can be sure that people in Our Lord’s time were as impatient with God’s timetable as we are. The big difference is that in our so-called “First World” culture, life moves at a near breakneck pace thanks to our computerized gadgets. But then we also have our methods of weight loss that guarantee we will “lose 18 pounds in a month,” or medicine that allegedly brings relief immediately; instant coffee and quick mortgages,” ET cetera, et cetera.” The problem of impatience easily spills over into the spiritual realm and has its effects on our prayer.
Some Christians become doubtful, Christians or even former Christians, when their prayer needs are seemingly unmet. Some Catholic Christians are the same way when they grow impatient with the pace of the Vatican. Yet I believe we all know deep down that persistence in prayer is the only way to go. And when our good God happens to answer “no” we have to accept that because in faith we believe He knows best. The good news is that He really does.
History endorses persistence, indirectly voting for it as a quality of good prayer. Once upon a time a teenager had decided to quit high school, saying he was just fed up with it all. His father was trying to convince him to stay with it. “Son,” he said, you just can’t quit. All the people who are remembered in history didn’t quit. Abraham Lincoln didn’t quit. Thomas Edison, he didn’t quit. Douglas MacArthur, he didn’t quit. Elmo Mc Cringle….”
“Who?” the son burst in. “Who’s Elmo Mc Cringle?” “See,” the father replied, “you don’t remember him. He quit!”