Thursday, June 4, 2009

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

Then 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.” ’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

- Luke 18:1-8

This is yet another story that is found only in Luke. I think it's important to take it in context, as it follows immediately after yesterday's reading, which was about Judgment and the final coming of the Lord. So, taken in that context, we understand it as an extension of teachings about justice and Judgment.

Jesus' great overriding concern is always about the coming kingdom - What is its nature? How is it revealed? Will it find a place in the world? Will people understand it and grasp and follow his teachings? These are his great concerns that pervade these gospels in the readings we encounter. It is always a great temptation to take each reading out of context and explore it without thinking of its relation to the rest of what is in the gospels, or even to the passages that come before or after it within that particular gospel. But, I think it's important to remember context - and to come to an understanding of each passage through a familiarity in general with Jesus' preaching and his concerns.

So, while this story, this teaching, could be taught to us as one that suggests to us to pray always for anything we need (and frankly I see nothing wrong with that unless we think of it as a magical formula for granting wishes), I think we have to recall the paragraphs before about Judgment. I believe that the justice Jesus is teaching here has to do with a sense of spiritual justice, based on the theme already introduced in yesterday's reading. When "his elect" pray for justice, this is a prayer for spiritual victory. This is a prayer for the kingdom to defeat the evil in the world. It is a prayer that the Good may not be persecuted. I see this in a spiritual context, because it is always and repeatedly the spiritual life with which Jesus is concerned. In Luke chapter 12, Jesus asked, "Who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" when a follower asked about the fairness of his inheritance with a brother. I think we have to remember the context of spiritual judgment that has just previously been introduced, and understand this prayer for justice in the context of the persecution of his followers, and even of the notion of spiritual battle. This is a sort of justice that has to do with the hearts and minds of people and what is there - and the injustice done to those who seek to do good, and to follow spiritual truth.

It's important to remember that Jesus tells us always to pray. I believe that the sharing of prayer with this indwelling Lord is essential to finding who we are. There are myriad prayers and ways to pray. I personally favor the contemplative. But I also find that allowing the things that trouble me, the difficult things I face or decisions that are hard and seemingly impossible for me, to rest within this prayer, is therapeutic and necessary for me. So I see this "pestering the judge" in the context of allowing even my petty concerns to come before God in prayer. If we set our lives out, our conflicts out, in that space of prayer it is not just therapeutic and helpful but it is also a way to seek a better perspective and different options for response and choice than one may have understood in a daily context. Putting our concerns into prayer is a way of setting them "outside the box." It is a way of getting distance, asking for different options and direction, and setting aside things with which we may be too pre-occupied to get a clear picture. It is also a way to acceptance of the things in life we cannot necessarily avoid that are difficult or create great hardship. It is a way of facing injustice within the context of striving to be a good person, to follow a spiritual life. Injustice will still come, and we need a way to understand it, to face it, and to continue on in faith and acceptance. In this context we must also remember the "justice" of the cross and Jesus' own life. The spiritual perspective is a necessity for this understanding.

Jesus asks, poignantly, 'And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ If setbacks come, do we put it into prayer? Do we understand we need a spiritual perspective on justice and Judgment in our lives? Can we keep the faith, and wait for an answer? Let us remember this mission is about the kingdom, its reality and its presence. And seek to understand justice within that context.

No comments:

Post a Comment