We often think of this parable, which is an important part of our Armenian Lenten tradition, in terms of the Unrighteous Judge. This the fifth Sunday of Great Lent and is in fact called the Sunday of the Judge. What I would like to do is to focus rather on the second very important figure in the parable. This person is the Persistent Widow. The widow would’ve been considered a marginalized and an unimportant person in the community.
While the Widow according to the rabbinic law was unable to inherit the wealth of her deceased husband, the scriptures state that there should be communal care for “the orphan, and the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12).” There is also a warning not to oppress a widow or an orphan. “You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their cry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans (Exodus 22:21-23).”
In the parable the widow urges the judge to avenge her against her adversary. The judge who is not interested in what he considered her petty plea ignored her and her petition. He neither feared God nor did he regard the people. This shows his arrogance, lack of mercy, and his disregard for God’s word and authority.
What the widow does is very enlightening for us and is the basis of the benefit of this parable for our own spiritual piety. She persistently badgers the judge to hear her case. It gets to the point where the judge is so fed up with her persistent please that he decides that he’ll hear her case so that he might be done with her. Our Lord contrasts the evil and selfish desire of the unrighteous judge with the loving and merciful desire for salvation of God’s people, Saved through the redeeming blood of our Lord.
God, is singularly the Righteous Judge and is quick to hear the pleas of His only begotten on behalf of the people for whom he offers his life and sacrifice. It is interesting to note that the ancient Hebrew text of the Old Testament scriptures refer to the throne of God as Ha Kapporett, which is translated into English as the judgment seat (Ezekiel 43:13-15).
The Greek translation known as the Septuagint uses the word hilastarion, which translates into the mercy seat. The word mercy, captures in its context atonement, sacrifice, propitiation and forgiveness. Saint Paul in the letter to the Romans expounds on the meaning of God’s mercy by stating for the believer and the one who trusts in Christ as “… being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God Himself hath set forth to be an expiation through faith in His blood” (Romans 3.24-25).
What a contrast between judgement and mercy!
As we know, Lent is a time for strict preparation in order to receive the great benefits of the revelation of Christ our risen Lord who died on our behalf and rose from the dead. So too does the church invite us into a deeper relationship with God being more vigilant in the persistence of our prayers and petitions for His mercy, Through Christ our Lord to whom is befitting glory, dominion and Honor, together with His Father and the Holy Spirit now and always and onto the ages of ages, Amen.