Homily recorded live from St Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street, Dublin, Ireland.
Commentary by Pope Francis on the Gospel Reading for Mission Sunday 2019
The parable of Jesus in the Gospel this Sunday portrays a woman who has been denied the right to express herself by a corrupt judge, an experience that many people all over the world suffer today. The parable is set “in a certain town” (Lk 18:2), a city without a name since what is told seems to take place everywhere – for the judge’s enemies, the law must be applied; for his friends, it need only be interpreted.
The widow in the parable is not a friend of the judge, so she does not receive an audience. This widow lost her husband’s support, and in the first-century Palestinian world, she could not inherit his property. Widows were economically vulnerable and could be exploited, as Jesus reminds us sharply when he accuses the religious leaders of devouring the houses of widows (see Lk 20:46-47). Not being able to afford a lawyer, the widow presents herself to offer her case against her opponent. Jesus exposes the inner reasoning of the corrupt judge, who is uninterested in her complaints and indifferent to who she is. He doesn’t fear God and doesn’t care for the good of people. The widow is determined not to remain invisible or unheard, even before a dishonest judge, until the case is definitively resolved in her favor.
Jesus uses the parable to teach about the necessity of urgent and continual prayer. If prayer is the heart of the Church’s mission, it is because within this personal and ecclesial relationship with God (liturgy), persons and communities are renewed through the salvation offered to us by Jesus. His question about faith when he will return seems to indicate a preoccupation by Jesus about the efficacy of the mission that will be carried out and the authenticity of the witness of the missionary disciples. These disciples, incorporated into the Paschal Mystery through baptism, are sent into the world as the Church of Christ, the community of the redeemed, to be the seed and beginning of the kingdom so that all history and all humanity may be transfigured and redeemed.
The efficacy of continuous prayer, of constant supplication, of the insistent search for love for truth and justice, forges the disciple’s capacity for mission. Only those who insistently pray put Christ at the center of their lives and of the mission entrusted to them, growing in faith. Only those who insistently pray become attentive and able to listen, to realize and discover the needs and requests for material and spiritual redemption so present in the heart of today’s humanity.