“And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” --Luke 18:8
All the injustice, divisiveness, violence and suffering wracking our world today can sometimes rattle our faith. At least I know it can mine.
Things were worse in Jesus’ time. Really. For over 500 years the people of Judea lived under the boot of one foreign power after another. Babylonians. Persians. Greeks. Romans. The truth is that, by Jesus’ day, the Jewish people, God’s chosen ones, had been crying out for justice for centuries. So, when Jesus asks “Will God delay long in helping them?” Some of his listeners might have answered with an emphatic, “Yes!”
And yet, those same listeners could probably also relate to the persistent widow and her fight for justice. In Jesus’ time the people yearned for the day when God would set things right and God’s justice would at long last prevail. Some, like the Zealots, believed that God’s reign of justice would come about through the work of their own hands. Others, like the Essenes -- who retreated into the desert -- and, to a certain extent, the Pharisees -- who dug into the Torah -- believed that the best alternative was to maintain the ancient Jewish customs and traditions and wait for the day when God intervened. Still others, like the Sadducees and the aristocracy chose to assimilate, conforming to Roman ways of doing things to just get along.
Today, Christian people take all these approaches to deal with the injustice, divisiveness, violence and suffering of our world. Some work passionately for justice. Others try to preserve the traditional ways of doing things. Still others do their best to accommodate to the ways of the world. To one extent or the other, all of us yearn for the Reign of God as we pray with Jesus, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and cry out “deliver us from evil!”
Jesus’ question at the end of this week’s Gospel needs to be heard against the backdrop of the tumultuous world where we live our lives. Jesus’ question still rings true, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” In the face of it all, do we still trust God? Do we still believe that God is working all things together for good? Do we still think faith in God makes a real difference in our lives in the here and now? Like Jacob, we wrestle with our angels and come up limping all too often.
The persistent faith Jesus encourages can take many forms, but our trust in God has to be foundational or everything else collapses like a house of cards. Apart from our faith in God, all our work for justice will not heal us. Apart from our faith in God, clinging to tradition and “the way we’ve always done it” will not make us whole. Apart from our faith in God, dressing the Gospel up to make it more “relevant” will not save us. Instead of all our feeble attempts to save ourselves, our faith in God drives us to the Christ. The answer to Jesus’ question, “Will he delay long in helping them?” is not an emphatic “Yes” but a firm “NO!” Because, you see, the help has already come. In Jesus we have God’s answer to the tumultuous world we live in. In the cross of Christ, we witness a God who was willing to take on our frail human flesh and die at the hands of all the injustice, divisiveness, violence and suffering the world can muster. In the resurrection, we are assured that, through Jesus, we have been given the life that really is life. That, more than anything else, is the basis for our persistent faith even as we cry out “Thy Kingdom come!”
As Jesus says, "...pray always and do not lose heart." Thanks for reading.