This post opens with the Fr. MacEvilly’s very brief analysis of Luke 18 followed by his notes on verses 1-8.
ANALYSIS OF LUKE CHAPTER 18
In this chapter, our Lord proposes the parable of the unjust judge and the importunate widow, to show the necessity and advantages of continuous persevering prayer, offered up with confidence (1–8). He illustrates the vices of pride and the virtue of humility by the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (9–14). After blessing the little children who were presented to Him, and having given salutary instructions on the subject of detachment from earthly possessions, to a ruler who would fain become His follower, but was prevented from doing so by his riches (15–30), He foretells His future Passion and Resurrection (31–34). He cures a blind man at Jericho (35–43).
Luk 18:1 And he spoke also a parable to them, that we ought always to pray and not to faint,
From verse 8, it would appear, that the following was spoken at the same time and in connexion with the preceding teaching respecting the final coming of our Lord. “And He spoke to them,” viz., His disciples, “a parable.” He adduced a proof, a fortiori, or indeed, rather, a dissimili, as St. Augustine says (Sermo 36, de Verbo Domini), namely, from an example the very opposite of the subject to which it is applied, to show the necessity of continuous persevering prayer, full of confident assurance, that in His own good time, God will come to our relief.
“That we ought always to pray.” The Greek will mean, He spoke a parable “for this,” that is, a parable showing this. “That it is necessary always to pray.” The word “always,” does not of course convey, that men should be ever on their knees engaged in vocal prayer. This would be unreasonable and incompatible with the duties of life, and the wants of human society. It only means, that we should be always ready for prayer, frequent and attentive in its exercise, particularly at stated times, and in seasons of temptation and trial, persevering, and “not fainting,” till we obtain our requests; that we should always walk in the Divine presence, by a spirit of prayer, love, and sorrow for sin; that we should refer our actions to God’s glory, and by frequent aspirations, be constantly in communication with Him. This every fervent Christian can and ought to do, without any interference with other duties. Thus, it is said of David, “Semper baculum in manibus,” &c. (1 Kings 17); our Redeemer, “Semper decui in synagoga.” Even the widow in question did not always worry the judge; but, “often.”
“And not to faint.” The Greek, μη εκκακειν, means, to become faint-hearted, or desponding in difficulties and trials of life, owing to human infirmity, particularly, if we fail to obtain at once the object of our petitions. We should not, on that account, give up, but rather persevere, until even our importunity and perseverance succeed in obtaining our requests, as was the case with the importunate widow in the subjoined parable.
Luk 18:2 Saying: There was a judge in a certain city, who feared not God nor regarded man.
The example of a judge, who was cruel and inexorable, and who had a character for impiety and impudence, adds greatly to the force of the argument. If such a man could be prevailed upon by importunity, how much more, will not a just and merciful God be influenced by the persistent entreaties of His beloved children (v. 7), (Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13).
“Feared not God.” An impious atheist. “Neither regarded man.” An impudent scoffer of his fellow-men, reckless of public opinion, who had neither conscience nor character. Sometimes impious, wicked men, are deterred from evil by fear of human opinion. This man had not even that redeeming quality—a man of the most defiant effrontery. Such a character is still fresh in the memory of men. For a true portrait, see Matthew 26:62.
Luk 18:3 And there was a certain widow in that city; and she came to him, saying: Avenge me of my adversary.
The helpless condition of the “widow,” whom he was, in virtue of his office, bound to protect, adds force to the parable. “Avenge me.” The Greek word, εκδικησον, means, not to take vengeance, but to do justice, to rescue her by a just judgment from the unjust prosecution of her “adversary”—αντιδικου—her powerful legal opponent, who sought, by his influence and wealth, to crush her, in a suit at law.
Luk 18:4 And he would not for a long time. But afterwards he said within himself: Although I fear not God nor regard man,
“And he would not for a long time.” Likely, owing to his innate perversity, and hope of receiving a bribe.
“Although I fear not God, nor regard man.” I am dead to all stings of remorse of conscience, and deaf to the reproaches of men, utterly reckless, as regards character.
Luk 18:5 Yet because this widow is troublesome to me, I will avenge her, lest continually coming she weary me.
I will avenge her.” I will render her justice, in the suit in which she is involved, against her powerful opponent.
“Lest continually coming she weary me.” The Greek word for “weary,” υπωπιαζη, means, literally, as happens pugilists, to bruise one under the eyes, and leave livid marks—υπωπιον—to render them black and livid from hard fists and severe blows. The same as the Latin, obtundo (as 1 Cor. 9:27). Here, it means, “to worry him to death.” The unjust judge now takes action, from a selfish feeling of consulting for his own ease, by being freed from the discomfort of constant worry. Similar are the conduct and sentiments of the man importuned at midnight (11:8). The judge might pretend to apprehend, from her continuous reproaches and injurious language, that she would at last assault him personally.
Luk 18:6 And the Lord said: Hear what the unjust judge saith.
Our Lord wishes to direct their attention to the parable and its several circumstances and features, in order to see the contrast in its application more clearly.
Luk 18:7 And will not God revenge his elect who cry to him day and night? And will he have patience in their regard?
“God,” a just and merciful Judge, a beneficent Father, contrasted with an impious, impudent, heartless judge.
“Avenge.” Vindicate the cause of “His elect,” His chosen children, whom He loves with an infinite love; whom He loved from eternity; to whose good He makes everything else subservient; who, moreover, cease not, “day and night, to cry unto Him,” offering Him a holy violence. Will He not be moved by their pious importunity, their filial confidence, their unceasing, persevering entreaties?
“And have patience”—μακροθυμων—which means, “long suffering”—“in their regard,” referring to the elect. The meaning is, will God patiently permit them to be afflicted, or will He defer too long to vindicate and right His chosen servants? According to the Greek reading, the word “and,” will signify even. Will God not avenge His elect … even when He is patient, or long-suffering in allowing them to be harassed and persecuted? St. Chrysostom reads, και μακρωθυμεὶ. The Vulgate reading better suits the assertion in next verse, “I say to you, He will quickly avenge them.”
Luk 18:8 I say to you that he will quickly revenge them. But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?
“Quickly.” When, after bearing long, and showing long-suffering in their regard, according to the decrees of His providence, He sees it expedient, not “quickly,” or immediately, on our petitioning Him. He often defers listening to our petitions, in order to try our patience and perseverance in prayer. For, it is to inculcate perseverance in prayer that the present parable is introduced.
“Nevertheless,” nothwithstanding My unfailing promise to succour My faithful followers, who, believing in My words and confiding in My promise, should persevere in prayer as a condition of obtaining relief and their liberation in due time; how few are there, comparatively, who, at My last coming, and during the preceding ages, when men should be ever ready for My coming, will be found to retain, under the pressure of persecution and suffering, the faith, which alone can insure persevering prayer, as well as the hope and firm confidence of being rescued by Me in due time. How few, therefore, who entitle themselves and have a claim to be delivered. The fault will be theirs, and not Mine; since they did not fulfil the conditions on which I promised to relieve them. This is understood by many interpreters of the general defection which, under the persecuting reign of Antichrist, shall take place at the end of the world (Matthew 24:12–24; 2 Peter 3:3). It may also be said to refer to the several defections which, at all intervening periods of time, shall take place, owing to the pressure of temporal evils, in consequence of which persevering and hopeful appeals to God will be given up by a comparatively large number of Christians. All this shall proceed from a want of firm faith in God’s words, and of unhesitating reliance on His promises. For, from faith proceeds prayer, and from the magnitude and constancy of faith, proceeds perseverance in prayer. If we look to the present state of the world, the prevailing infidelity, the indifference even of professing Christians, in regard to their religious duties, and especially prayer, have we not grave reasons to apprehend that we are approaching, nay, almost surrounded on all sides, by that general apostasy referred to here by our Blessed Lord?