Prayer, Protest, and the Pursuit of Justice

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Illustration by Br. Martin Erspamer, OSB, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana. Used with Permission.

In recent years, numerous resolute and persistent women of the past and present have come into sharper public view—Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, Dorothy Day, to name just a few. We recognize these and other women of protest because of their untiring efforts to bring about justice within the unjust systems of our society and world. 

Today, Luke’s Gospel places before us a nameless biblical woman of protest and persistence. Sometimes called the “importunate widow,” she has no standing and presumably no rights in her community. She is poor and vulnerable, with no other option than to demand justice and the settling of what was due her. More than likely the issue between the judge and the widow was financial—a matter of material resources being withheld from her after her husband’s death. With no male protector to adjudicate for her and no money to seek a quick settlement, her only recourse was to persist in demanding her rights. In the end, the widow’s vindication came not through the judge’s concern for justice, but in response to her persistent protest. 

Many conclude that the point of this parable is persistence in prayer. But what if we were to conclude that the widow in the parable really represents God, the one who relentlessly pursues justice in the face of rampant injustice among human beings? 

Which lesson of the parable most leads you to prayer today—the widow’s persistent pursuit of justice, the power of perseverance in prayer, or God’s relentless desire to wipe out injustice from the face of the earth? 

© Liturgical Press.

Sr. Ephrem Hollerman

Sr. Ephrem Hollermann, OSB, is a former prioress of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minnesota, and professor emerita of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

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