Importunate

John l:l-18

On a cold Spring day in l940, my mother, age 37, dressed me in my best sweater and knickers, and took me on the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin train down to the “loop” in Chicago. At my father’s office, mother placed me on a chair and told me to stay quiet. She approached the receptionist and asked for my father’s paycheck. The receptionist spoke to the owner of the publishing company, who replied that the check was not available. My father lay dying in Grant Hospital from a severe kidney infection. Although the owner had the money and did not contest the fact that my father was entitled to the long over due pay, she was not inclined to produce the paycheck, even though she had been dunned repeatedly.

Mother announced to the receptionist that she would remain all day until paid. After everyone had left at 5 o’clock, the owner appeared, smiled at my mother, and asked how my father was. Mother replied that he was gravely ill, and that she had come for the check. The owner replied, “Oh, haven’t you been paid yet?” Mother said, “No.” The owner then reached into her purse, pulled out the paycheck, and handed it to my mother. Mother said, “Thank you,” and we left. Mother cried all the way home.

Years ago Jesus told a similar story. It is the parable of the importunate widow and the unrighteous judge. St. Luke tells us: And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (RSV, Lk.18:1-8).

You and I are assured that God hears our prayers. We are encouraged to persevere. It is important for us to remember that prayer is not only contemplation and meditation, it includes action: the living out of our faith. If the unrighteous can be moved, how much more so does God, the Righteous, hear our tears? Amen.