The Shrine of the Holy House

The Archbishop word (Archbishop emeritus) The bothersome widow

S.E. Msgr. Giovanni Tonucci

I don’t really know if it is correct to give this epithet to the woman whom we speak about now. We will see and we will judge. Yet again, we meet a woman whom Jesus presents as an example in one of his parables. But even though the narration doesn’t refer to a specific person, the facts referred are very lifelike and reflect  circumstances  that  are  repeated  continuously, from Jesus’s time until our days. To be correct, we must recognize that everything today is organized better, with precise rules and responsible people with much proved competence. However we can not say that everything functions and that justice is always administered quickly and well. Let’s look at our parable (Lk 18:1-8), in which the  Lord  introduces  the  figure  of  a  judge  “who neither feared God nor respected any human being.” Jesus does not say that the judge was corrupt or that he accepted, for example, money or favors to adapt his sentences. The fact though that this man did not have respect for God and for His law does not give us hope much. And the non-respect for any human beings makes us think of a person who is interested only in himself. Before the judge, behold the woman: described as a widow, and therefore void of every human support, who has a dispute with an adversary. No details are furnished in this regard, but we understand that the woman is in the right and she must be defended against someone who wants to take advantage of her state of abandonment, in order to profit somehow. Perhaps he wants to take possession of the house in which the woman lives, or to become the owner of the small garden that the woman cultivates and from which she maintains herself? We do not know, but it is certain that things like this happened often. Therefore the widow, remaining alone, searches for the protection of justice, which the judge, though, procrastinates in giving. From her behavior, we understand that she does not fear judgement, because she knew with certitude that she was in the right and that, against her, her adversary was conspiring something that was illegal. The problem stems only from the judge’s fault, who, without any plausible reason, delays the sentence and therefore leaves everything suspended. In the face of this passive behavior, the widow does not give in, and she insists presenting herself continuously to the judge, bothering him and asking him to do justice. Seeing that this is the situation, can we truly call the woman with the not very kind epithet of bothersome? Perhaps it would be better to define her as insistent, or to remember that she was hungering for righteousness, applying to her one of the Beatitudes. Anyway, her persistence gained success for her, because the judge, coherent to the end with his way of being was convinced to give her justice and to recognize her good reasons. Not for professional honesty and for a sense of duty, rather only because he was tired of being constantly disturbed. Jesus shared the parable to transmit to us an important message: if even a dishonest judge allowed himself to be convinced by the insistence of this woman, how much more God, who loves us and wants our well-being, will be ready to listen to our invocations and to accomplish those gestures of justice that we ask Him. The widow of the parable becomes in this way an exemplary personage that embodies all of us: for each of us she is a model to imitate, and she shows us a winning comportment which we too must live out in our relationship with God. As Jesus points out, the situation  is  very  different,  because we are not speaking of a lazy and corrupt judge, but God the Father, who loves us because we are his children. If the judge kept the widow waiting, God does not want to do the same for the chosen ones: “I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily”. Let us reflect on the lesson that the woman of the parable gives us. Without a doubt we can remember her sense of justice. She asked for a just thing, and we too can not ask God to help us in that which we don’t merit and in that which we don’t have a right to receive. But she also asked with insistence. We said earlier that perhaps it was not correct to define the widow as bothersome. But when one invokes God for a grace, well then I think that it is just that we are towards Him so insistent to the point of being - we yes - bothersome.