THE POWER OF PERSEVERANCE: SUNDAY OF THE JUDGE
The fifth station in our spiritual pilgrimage of Great Lent toward the feast of the Holy Resurrection, according to the Armenian Church Calendar, is known as the Sunday of the Judge, after the parable of our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 18:1-8. The heroes of this story are two contrasting figures: a powerful judge and a poor widow. For a long time, the widow’s request for a decision was denied by the judge, but amazingly the case was closed with the widow’s victory due to her persistence.
Our Lord intentionally has chosen these two characters, first to pinpoint the importance of perseverance to be practiced not only in earthly matters but as well as in prayer. Also, to show that if the judge yielded to the widow’s continuous request, the more our Heavenly Father compassionately would, pleased by our supplications.
Prayer is essential in the life of our society. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of testimonies about the impact of prayer. In the Old Testament, in First Kings, chapter 17, we read that it was Elijah’s prayer that deprived the earth from rain for six months, but later, the course of the nature was reversed because of the prayer of the prophet.
In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ is the role model of prayer. He prayed always, even to the last moment of His earthly life while on the Cross.
In Church History, our Fathers have adopted the practice of the prayer in their daily lives. Just to present some of the prayerful saints: St. Gregory the Illuminator, St. Ephrem the Syrian, St. Basil of Caesarea, St. John of Damascus, St. Grigor Naregatzi, St. Nerses the Gracious, St. Hovhannes Karnetzi, St. Francis of Assisi, and others.
The benefit of prayer is not limited only to those who pray, but its blessings are abundantly showered as well upon communities, nations, and all of mankind. Prayer is like the Air Force, which shields us not only from visible but also from invisible temptations and powers.
We may talk about the magnitude and the magnificence of prayer for hours and months. For the time being, I would like to concentrate on two points derived from our daily Bible readings.
Firstly, prayer means full trust in the Almighty Lord, knowing and believing that He will never put us to shame. From the beginning to the end of her journey of trust, the widow did not give up. She was not discouraged, and she did not disparage, despite the judge’s disregard and denials. An inner power pushed her forward to continue to knock at the door of the judge.
Secondly, prayer is unconditional. The Gospel does not indicate exactly how many times the widow appealed her case, but we learn from the behavior of the judge that it was incessant. For the judge says, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her case, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming to the court.”
Therefore, we should not give up on our requests if they are not met within the time period of our expectation. Consciously or unconsciously, the advantages of modern technology have weakened the immunity power of our patience. As soon as we push a button, we instantly expect to get what we want, be it with computers, phones, etc. A delay, however short or long, drives us crazy. We lose our temper and behave in a manner that upsets us later. Likewise, if we pray and do not receive an answer back immediately, let us not be tempted to say, “Our prayers are useless,” but rather we should trust God wholeheartedly, and commit ourselves to His care, which He delivers in His own time. We must recall that “a thousand years are like one day” for God (Psalm 90:4; Second Peter 3:8), and yet we can be transformed in the twinkling of an eye (First Corinthians 15:52).
I believe this parable, more than ever, applies to us today. As I shared my reflections on last Wednesday on the occasion of Mid-Lent, the unprecedented plague of the coronavirus has devastated our globe and, more than any natural disaster, it is threatening mankind on six continents.
As human beings, we are endowed by God with two treasured gifts: rationality and faith. By all means, we should use both of these by being attentive and prudent to follow seriously all the instructions provided by public officials and healthcare agencies. At the same time, we should trust in God’s providential care. Like the poor widow who tirelessly visited the earthly judge and eventually saw her expectations fulfilled, let us also unceasingly knock at the door of the heavenly Judge for His divine and loving mercy, as He taught us: “Knock and it will be opened” (Mt 7.7.).
With this understanding in mind, let us pray for the recovery of all those who have been infected by this severe virus. Let us pray for all governments not to spare any support toward the prevention and spread of the coronavirus, this microscopic enemy. Let us pray for all the doctors, nurses, and public servants for their superb sacrifice. Let us pray that scientists will come up with the cure for this common enemy of mankind. And last but not least, let us pray that the Almighty Lord and our Heavenly Father may work through these dedicated people and organizations to disperse all the clouds of mourning, sorrow, distress, and to shine the light of joyful and peaceful life on us.
On a personal note, I would like to close my reflection with an Armenian saying that reminds us of a human shortcoming. It says, “When the storm passes, we forget the saint.” In other words, let us not be like ungrateful children who, who after receiving what they expected from their parents, are obsessed with the gift rather than being thankful to the giver. But rather, I beseech you all, let us always pray fervently and wholeheartedly both in the time of turmoil as well as in time of peace. Let us always feel close and be thankful to our Heavenly Father, who will shower upon us His blessings now and in Eternity. Amen