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.
O sing to the Lord, sing his praise;
tell all his wonderful works!
Be proud of his holy name,
let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice. (R./)
He struck all the first-born in their land,
the finest flower of their sons.
He led out Israel with silver and gold.
In his tribes were none who fell behind. (R./)
For he remembered his holy word,
which he gave to Abraham his servant.
So he brought out his people with joy,
his chosen ones with shouts of rejoicing.
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 yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
While in a crisis we may be willing to go the extra mile, today's texts ask for fidelity over the long haul, not the heroism of the single brave action, but the heroism of staying with the daily routine of duty. Our daily duties may seem very ordinary, but it takes God's extraordinary grace to keep at it.
This kind of daily faithfulness can accomplish much, keeping the family intact and the business afloat, or the parish functioning as a place of prayer and goodwill. Jesus addresses the paradox of seeming to be stuck in a rut and yet reaching our goal, as exemplified in the widow who kept coming to the judge, demanding her rights. Finally the judge's patience wears out, and so settles the case in her favour. the widow is a patroness of persistence. We can accomplish very much by not taking no for an answer.
This final verse 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 might refer to the threat of Roman imperialism but it speaks to any number of situations. A positive response to the question is to be involved in spreading our faith, each of us as an when possible. Then when "the all-powerful Word leaps from heaven, from the royal throne", we will find ourselves ready and waiting to greet him.
We have heard the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Here was a widow who refused to lose heart, even when rejected by a judge who neither feared God nor had any respected his neighbours. This powerless woman was faced down by a powerful judge and the odds were all stacked against her. But she refused to give up, certain that justice was on her side. Jesus proposes this woman as a model of faith in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles.
At the end of this parable, Jesus asks, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?" Will he will find the resilient faith of the widow or, will he find, rather, that people have lost heart and lost faith? God's faithfulness is not in doubt. The question is about our faithfulness. He gave this lesson about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. Our main way to keep faith in difficult times is through prayer.