Michael M. Burke, O. P., D. Min.
Praying For Justice
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29th Sunday In Ordinary Time:  October 21, 2007

Mass at 4PM for St. Anthony of Padua.

What better day than Voting Day to hear about praying for justice?!  What better city than New Orleans, with people waiting for the Government to answer their prayers for justice and Insurance Companies to come through with money that is rightfully theirs and people waiting for over two years with no reply?! 

It seems this parable is meant for us, today!

First, let us clear up the possible confusion that God is like the unjust judge who is slow to answer the widow’s plea for justice.  It really is the opposite.  It is saying how much more will God hear our prayer.   However, if we confuse this story, a parable, with an allegory we might think God is like the unjust judge, reluctant to answer our prayers.

This message and story told by Jesus had very significant meaning in his day because widows were among the most insignificant persons in society, with no rights and no husband to support them.  In His day as well as ours there were unjust judges, unjust laws and red tape that slowed down the process.

The widow, however, is persistent in her plea to ‘render a just decision for me against my adversary.  With a touch of humor Jesus says the judge thinks she might strike him and hit him. 

The point is:  pay attention to the fact that this unjust judge will finally give her justice.  God who is much more eager to answer our prayers will give us justice.

But we live in a world that is not as compassionate as the God we believe in.  Besides there is loads of red tape and papers and other hoops to pass through, even if every ‘judge’ or organization was eager to give justice.  I think of law suits that wait and are tabled for years.  I think of people on death row, or in our prisons, mostly people of color, who do not get the justice that white people do.  There are not even enough lawyers to help them and the ones who help the poor don’t get paid much.

          Jesus is giving us, his disciples, encouragement for our ministry of justice.  We, as disciples, ought to be seeking justice for those in need and for those for whom justice is slow in coming.

          Why pray?  Jesus realizes that we could lose heart and give up in the cause for justice.  It is so daunting and disheartening that we could bail out and just tend to our own needs.  Our faith can weaken under the pressures and delays, unless we are persistent in prayer.

I recall a group of Dominicans back in the ’60’s’ when we realized after the Vatican Council that justice, social justice, was an integral part of the Gospel.  They formed a community in the heart of Washington DC to help the poor and lobby on Capitol Hill for the disenfranchised.  However, they got so caught up in all the injustice and began to weary and burn out because they didn’t keep up an intense prayer life to balance the stress of their ministry.

Mother Teresa is a good example of prayer and justice.  She worked for the poor and taught her Sisters to work on behalf of the poorest of the poor, but she also knew that an intense prayer life had to accompany her ministry.

It is easy in New Orleans to become despondent amidst so much violence, so little justice and so many problems.  Where is God?  God has not left us, but if we stop praying and do not join prayer to our work for justice we will think that God is not hearing us.  When we pray we experience a God of compassion and we receive the energy we need to keep on keeping on.

The faith that saves is the faith that endures even when justice is slow in coming.  It is a faith the trusts and continues to work for justice.  It is a faith that keeps our hearts hopeful and compassionate.  It is a faith that prays even after we receive our answers.  We will never stop praying and if we never stop praying we will never stop believing and if we never stop believing that justice is possible, it will eventually come and in the meantime we will treat one another with kindness and hope.

Vote your conscience!

Below is a Prayer for those who Teach Justice, provided by our Diocesan Office of Peace and Justice.  Since we are all called to teach justice by our lives, we invite you to cut it out and pray it regularly.

Prayer for Those who Teach Justice

We give thanks for your light and love, Gracious

God.  You have given us a precious mission which

stirs our soul.

We are grateful for your Spirit moving through us,

helping us to form the words of justice, peace,

and love, helping us to proclaim your Good News.

We see the wonderful things you have done for

us, and we cherish the challenge of reaching out,

being your voice of hope to a world of sorrow.

Renew us this day and everyday.

We quickly grow weary, easily falter, lose heart and dance with despair.

We need to open ourselves to your grace, to listen with longing for your call, to be like the Magi, following a sometimes distant star.

Remind us we are part of a community, we are part of a people on pilgrimage, we are never alone. We are nourished at your table and we nourish each other through sharing. You have called us by name and we are yours. Amen.


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