By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 16, 2016
Today’s gospel reading describes a situation that Catholic advocates for LGBT issues might find familiar. In Luke 18:1-8, we hear Jesus’ parable of a widow who keeps clamoring to the local dishonest judge to give her justice. The judge, who describes himself as someone who neither fears God nor respects any human being, will offer her a just decision if only to stop her from continually harassing him with her pleas.
Jesus explains that God, who is all just, will certainly do as much as, and even more than the dishonest judge to protect “the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night.”
As someone who feels like he has been clamoring to God for decades now for justice for LGBT people, Jesus’ answer provides some amount of comfort: God will, in fact, hear us, and protect our rights, too.
But guess what? So far, God hasn’t done so. And I’ve been clamoring for a while. And I know a LOT of people who’ve been clamoring for a while–and many of them have been clamoring a LOT longer and a LOT more than I have. So, what does that mean about God’s response to us?
I think Jesus gives us an answer to that question at the conclusion of today’s gospel. After assuring his listeners that God will answer their prayers, he ends with a question:
“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Now, I’m always leery of sentences that begin with “but.” It often indicates that whatever was said before it should not be taken seriously, like: “I really like your outfit, but I would not want to wear it.” So, when Jesus offers his “but” statement, I think he is telling us, “Yeah, God is going to answer your prayers, but what really matters is not your petitions and God’s response, but whether you have the attitude of faith.”
I know that in a lot of my clamoring to God, I often don’t have that element of faith in my prayer. I clamor to God because I’m kind of hopeless, and out of options, and my prayers have more than a tinge of desperation, but usually not much faith behind them. I think that in today’s gospel, Jesus is reminding us not just to clamor to God desperately, but faith-fully. We should approach God in prayer with the confidence that God will answer us, even if we can’t see the evidence of God’s answers in our lives. As St. Paul instructs us in his letter to the Hebrews (11:1):
Beyond the purely spiritual benefits of praying with faith, there is an important practical benefit. When we pray with faith, it’s like receiving new eyes to see the world through the lens of faith. This new vision helps us to see things that we might have overlooked in the past. We can start to see where progress on LGBT issues is being made, and where work still needs to be done. We can start to see how God has actually indeed answered our prayers already, but maybe not in the way that we were expecting. We can see more clearly that even though we may not have reached our goals of equality and justice, God is so intimately close to us, loving us, strengthening us, as we continue our work.
This approach is not asking us to just “look on the bright side” of things or to see things with rose-colored glasses. It’s asking us to acknowledge a reality that is bigger than ourselves and our own particular desires.
So instead of wondering why it seems that God has not answered our prayers, maybe we need to look again at the world with eyes of faith to see that God indeed has heard our clamoring, and is helping us achieve our goals, little by little.
And, keep clamoring!