In the Parable of the Unjust Judge and the Persistent Widow we are given a purely human account of how ‘justice’ works. Men grant ‘rights’ and follow ‘laws’ simply out of convenience, rarely if ever, and seldom for the right reasons, groping towards the natural law. What is justice, anyway? When we confront this knotty, Socratic question, we often find ourselves caught up in a culture of entitlement, litigation, conflict, and division. Some semblance of order may sometimes result, but it never lasts long, and it’s hard to see what it is we really want.
The Unjust Judge “neither feared God nor respected man”. After much nagging, he reluctantly gives the widow her rights, but his actions are not motivated by charity. What motivates our actions is known only to God and our conscience. Only Our Lord –appearances can deceive – is able to tell who is or is not like the Unjust Judge. If, unlike the Unjust Judge, we find unaffected, sincere, selfless love within ourselves, we are keeping Christ’s commandment to love, and “whatsoever we ask, we receive of him” (1 John 3:22). For, God, utterly unlike any earthly judge, is Love, and by his nature is also Just.
When we appeal to God, as the Persistent Widow did to the Unjust Judge, we are praying in a particular way. Petitionary prayer is perhaps the most common form of prayer, especially in times of distress and need. When we ask God for things, we often behave like we are pleading with an arbitrary, human judge. But while man-made law deals with externals, and with our surface-level desires and needs, God is different. Even those of us who are filled with charity will not always receive from God those things for which we ask. When we pray, like the widow “avenge me of mine adversary” – whether a person, evil spirit, or a particular sin – God often refuses. This is because prayer is itself the expression of a desire, a desire for union with God above all. When we ask for something and God does not give it to us, this does not mean that we lack charity. Rather, it means God is loving, healing, and judging us in a way which transcends human understanding: he knows best. In doing this, he fulfils our primary desire for union with him, rather than other desires. Instead of asking God for our ‘rights’, we should simply love our God and neighbour. We should understand that God allows us to suffer in particular ways for our own good. This love is what keeps on coming back to God, as did the widow to the judge, and we know that God does whatever is necessary to fulfil love’s desire by bringing us to eternal life.
Prayers and best wishes,
seminarian on placement