A couple of weeks ago a friend and I were pondering the Sunday gospel reading, Luke 18-1-8. A widow besieges an unjust judge, who finally caves in. In the conventional reading, it is about keeping on asking for justice, which God will grant. Only two things wrong with it. Firstly, he usually doesn’t. Secondly, in the Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament, it is usually God demanding justice. Then I found a good article supposing that perhaps God is the widow. Shocking, in the kind of way Jesus tends to like. So, what follows below is my retelling of this parable in that way. I think the power of the story and the easy with which it works, makes this ‘reading’ of it more probably. No actual judges were harmed in the making of this story.
And there she was, in my face again. I was having a quiet chat with Jim, and she was there shouting at me again. It was a dispute over a field, and frankly she was not being realistic. That of course is the trouble with these people. Nothing to offer, no place in the scheme of things. They don’t accept reality. Which was that Jud needed a bigger plot to make the development he had on worthwhile, and her field got in the way. That is how it is. I was the judge and she needed to accept that.
But she didn’t accept it, and there she was, in my face at every turn. I was furious. Jim was laughing of course. ‘It’s not like she can DO anything, is it?’ he said. The trouble was that to ignore her was one thing, but to take action against her would cause the wrong kind of talk.
First, she caught me at the gates, where I sat with the other elders. She stood there crying out about the Law – and what it said about widows, and fields, and justice. And I made a joke of it. I turned to Jim and said: ‘She got a right good education, didn’t she?’ and that turned it off.
Then I was in the market place and it was the prophets. I got Amos, and his comments on selling the needy for a pair of shoes. I got Micah, and the Lord requiring justice and mercy. I raged inside. But I said: ‘I’ll prophesy then, that you will lose your voice if you keep on blabbering like that, hen.’ And that again made a joke of it, and John thought it quite funny.
I mean, I wasn’t selling her into slavery was I? Or beating her up? All I was doing was ensuring that a much-needed development went through, and that those who ought to benefit from enterprise did.
And then in an alley way. I was alone, except for the nonentities around me. And I looked right into her face. For the first time I saw the anger. Her eyes held mine, and time and place swung away. Her face, the sexless ageless face of a woman past child bearing, was now crowned with gold, and light and fire played in the gold. She grew, and now she was three, four times my size, and she moved back, and I saw robes flowing around her, embroidered, coloured. I was no longer sure if she was man or woman. This regal figure stood on the warm fiery backs of two immense creatures, like female sphinxes, whose wings bore the monarch aloft. Around the figure were others. Those who looked as I expected angels to be. Then there were wheels on fire, dragons, a monstrous bull, an eagle. There were dark figures which filled me with fear, and bright ones even more terrible.
Then I saw, around this throne, the figures of men and women. They were dressed in rags, and robes, and clothes I cannot describe. They all turned to the throne, which now filled the whole of the sky and they cried out, ‘How long, Oh Lord, how long? We hunger and thirst to see right prevail. Fill the hungry with good things!’ I could not count them, and I could never describe the longing and the anger of their voices.
The figure on the throne turned to me, and still with the face and the voice of the widow thundered: ‘Grant me justice!’
I wet myself.
I was suddenly standing in a dark alley, and I stumbled home and the slaves got me to bed.
The next morning, I went to the gate. Jud was there. I sat down. The widow came forward. She did not say anything. She looked at me. I gave her justice. I heard the disgusted comments of Jud, Jim, John. I cared. Oh, yes, I still cared. But caring or not, I had set off in a different direction.
It is an easy thing to say you do not care for God or humankind, isn’t it? It is different when you meet them.