Prayer; not a duty but a privilege – Saturday, 32nd week in Ordinary Time – Luke 18:1-8

This pericope has been tied to Luke 17:20 -37 by 17:8. Luke 17:20 and following are a collection of teachings by Jesus on the end times and the need to be in a constant state of readiness and unencumbered by baggage. Jesus is so close to entering Jerusalem (Luke 19:27) and it is here that he will lay down his life, hence he has to teach his disciples the need to faithful and faith filled. Verse eight of our pericope ties these two passages together with the reference to the Son of Man ‘who will come back’. Hence this is an eschatological or end time parable.

Now that we know the context of the parable let us understand its purpose and that has been given to us in verse one. This parable was meant to be words of encouragement to Luke’s beleaguered community. The lesson was clear; God would not abandon them but they in turn must remain faithful and therefore steadfast in prayer until Jesus comes.

St Luke tells us that Jesus told them this parable about their need to pray. Clearly prayer is not an option, there is a need to pray. Sadly, many translate the need to pray as a burden and look at it as a duty; prayer is a privilege. Yet as we will see in verse eight, merely ‘continual prayer’ is not what is meant by Jesus but rather a prayer that increases faith (verse 8). Fidelity to God and Jesus must be the engine of prayer.

The parable speaks of a widow. In a patriarchal world widows had little standing and most of their rights would have been stripped away. Quite clearly the widow represents much more for Luke. In Luke and Acts, St Luke employs the imagery of widows to stand for all that is seen as powerless. (Luke/Acts 7:11-17, 20:45-21:4)

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