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Editor's note: Bread Blog is running a year-long series exploring passages from The Poverty & Justice Bible published by the American Bible Society (Contemporary English Version). The intent is a theological exploration at the intersection of social justice and religion. The blog posts will be written by members of the church relations staff at Bread for the World.
By Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy
“Jesus told his disciples a story about how they should keep on praying and never give up: In a town there was once a judge who didn’t fear God or care about people. In that same town there was a widow who kept going to the judge and saying, ‘Make sure that I get fair treatment in court.’ For a while the judge refused to do anything. Finally, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about people, I will help this widow because she keeps on bothering me. If I don’t help her, she will wear me out.’” (Luke 18:1-5)
Luke 18 begins with a lesson – to encourage fervent and unceasing prayer and to never give up. Pray and act. The formula is simple; the implementation is the challenge.
Losing heart and becoming discouraged is nothing new. Jesus uses the powerful story of the persistent widow to get us to realize God's never-ending love and faithfulness.
In the telling of this parable, Jesus' listeners would have been instantly familiar with the daunting situation facing the widow. Widows were often the poorest people in Jesus' society. They were powerless and denied the inheritance of their deceased husbands. It took real courage for the widow to face a system in which she had little hope of getting any relief.
Instead of emphasizing the limits of the widow’s power, Jesus points to how our faithful God hears the cry of his children. If even an unrighteous judge could be moved to make the right choice, certainly our merciful and loving God will not fail us.
The story reminds us that our praying and acting has meaning and relevance.
In praying, we acknowledge our dependence on God. As believers we know God is with us and at work in the world. For the widow, her prayer compelled her to step out. Could justice prevail? Just maybe she’d get her land back after her husband died. Who knew that the judge's self-serving, cynical ways were no match for her persistence?
Taking action requires courage – the kind the widow exhibited and that is required of us today.
Ending hunger by 2030 is a bold claim. Seeking an end to hunger requires us to trust in what we know God intends for us. And it requires that we muster our courage. Despite statistics that demonstrate its feasibility, there are those who insist hunger will always be with us.
Bread for the World invites you to renew your commitment to pray unceasingly for an end to hunger. As individuals and as a collective body of Christians, we acknowledge our dependence on God.
Like the widow, we need to muster the courage to educate, inform, and persuade our nation's decision makers that ending hunger is feasible.
The question I ask myself is how am I living with the hope and courage today?
Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy is the senior associate for national Catholic engagement at Bread for the World.
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