February 20, 2019

Persistence in Pursuit of Justice: A Feminist Interpretation of Luke 18: 1-8

In 2007, the UN General Assembly declared that 20 February will be celebrated annually as the World Day of Social Justice, recognising the need to promote efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment.  Today, more than ever, the cries for justice can be heard throughout our global community, whether it is from the millions of displaced women, men and children who are fleeing situations of war, famine or a life of poverty or from our planet Earth where we are witnessing unprecedented climate change. 

The pursuit of Justice for us Christians is about the pursuit of love.  God’s love is gratuitous which is why we are being continuously asked to love gratuitously. The work of justice is a lifelong activity for us in the Mercy world.  As Catherine herself said: “If we love God, we will undoubtedly love our neighbour also; they are as cause and effect”. [1]

When I was asked to write something to mark UN World Day of Social Justice what kept coming into my mind was the challenge to persist in work for justice which in these times is not easy. This brought to my consciousness a biblical story with which I was familiar, namely, that of the parable of the persistent widow in Luke.

I have been intrigued with how the point of this parable is often missed, or rather it is interpreted in a way that keeps us from seeing what is really there.  The danger with parables is that they can be perceived as stories, as something that is not real or did not happen. Parables do not give clear answers but leave it up to the hearer to determine the outcome. There is always a significant twist in a parable.  The listeners are drawn into the story, which leads them in a certain direction. Then, quite suddenly, things change. The ground is taken from under their feet, and they are walked into a cul de sac, which allows no escape. They are induced into an area that they would not have sought out. Parables can be seen as “subversive speech”.[2]  In reflecting on the UN Day for Social Justice, I want to explore this twist by highlighting how this parable is firstly about a woman’s persistent pursuit for justice and how this text gives us a female image for God.  Finally, I will focus on the implications of this approach for ministry.

[1]  Catherine McAuley Retreat Instructions  http://www.mercyprayers.org/styled-187/styled-188/index.html (accessed on 25th January, 2019).

[2] William R. Herzog II, Parables as Subversive Speech (Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox 1994) 9.

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Messages to: Sheila Curran rsm (The Congregation)

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