Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Widow and Judge

Readings for Sunday are here.

"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."

I am bothered when I hear interpretations of this passage that see God as comparable to the unjust judge. In most of the Hebrew Scriptures, God identifies with the widow. It is the widow in this parable who is the persistent one calling for justice. When I read this poem by John Shea in Stories of Faith, "Storyteller of God," I found the answer to my questions:
Or suddenly
you are gowned in power,
a judge whose verdicts are
as slick as well worn coins.
All salute you in the marketplace
and from their sleeves
pull presents to please you.
Except a certain widow with a certain case
who in the morning waits before your door
and in the court nags
your heartless logic with her need
and at night weeps outside your garden.
One day,
wearied by her words,
you say,
"All right!"
You give justice to the widow
whose ceaseless tongue belongs to God.

Our call is to be persistent widows when we see abuse, to cry out in the marketplace, and in the courts. The Greek word that is translated "wear me out by continually coming" is a technical boxing term for giving someone a black eye. It is also used metaphorically for embarrassing one in public. So either the widow gave the judge a literal black eye or she finally shamed in into action.

Where in life am I like the Judge, where the Widow?

Photo from here.