29 Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 20, 2019
Last week, I noticed a questionable charge on my credit card statement. I immediately called “the bank” and was greeted by a very pleasant, mechanical voice, advising that “due to an unusually high volume of callers, please expect a long delay, but if you prefer, simply leave your number and a representative will contact you within 24 hours.” I chose to wait…and wait I did.
Finally, the mechanical voice came back on the line to explain that it would expedite my call if I were to key in my account number using the keypad on my mobile device. For some reason, that took three attempts, at which point, the same mechanical voice asked me to state in a few words the reason for my call. I was offered several examples of what to say. Supposedly, this would make it easier for the representative to serve me.
I told the computer that there was an “improper charge on my September statement.” I felt that was fairly straightforward. But the computer didn’t understand and replied: I’m sorry…I did not get that. So that our representative is better able to assist you, please state in a few words the reason for your call…for example…
I repeated…SLOWER and LOUDER…”improper charge on my September statement.” And two more times, the mechanical voice apologized: I’m sorry…I did not get that…
At that point…and I do confess I might have been shouting…I told the mechanical voice: I WANT TO SPEAK TO A REPRESENTATIVE! That registered and earned the pleasant response: One moment please. A representative will be with you shortly.
FINALLY! Good morning, my name is Jane…may I ask who I am speaking with?
Regaining my composure, I told her my name and she replied: Thank you…And what is your account number? What are the first three digits of your Social Security number? What was the name of your first pet? Having replied to all of this screening, she finally said: Now, how may I help you?
I detailed my complaint, at which point, I heard Jane clicking away on her computer. And after several more minutes, she said: I’m sorry I can’t help you with that. I will have to transfer you to another department. One moment, please! And then…before I could get a word out of my mouth…
WHEN FINALLY! Good morning, my name is John…may I ask who I am speaking with? And then, for reasons that are far beyond my understanding…I was put through the identical screening process before I was able to speak those few, simple words: “Improper charge on my September statement.”
In a reassuring voice, John said that he needed a few moments to track the charge and he would put me on hold….Music…music…music…
When he returned, he explained that the best way to handle this issue would be to make a call to the offending company and have a three-way conversation. He asked if that would be satisfactory to me. And, eager to get the matter resolved, I agreed. John dialed the number of the firm.
So how did that go?
Well, we were greeted by a very pleasant, mechanical voice, advising that “due to an unusually high volume of callers, please expect a long delay.” It got worse. Before we connected with a human being…WE WERE DISCONNECTED!
You know this is a completely true, unexaggerated story, because almost everyone has had this very same kind of experience. We live in a day and age where we have to be persistent if we are going to know justice. If we are not aggressive in pressing our rights, we lose them. We can all empathize with the poor widow, because we frequently find ourselves in the same position. In a way, things are even more challenging for us than they were for her, because computers have no conscience. They aren’t worn down by begging.
However, we can also very easily identify with the judge. How often have moms heard the word PPPPLLLLLLEEEEAAAASSSEE…repeated over and over again….until they finally cave?
Our human experiences enable us to get up close and personal with this parable. And, as a result, we tend to hear in this little story as encouragement to pray harder, more frequently, until we wear God down. In fact, that is exactly how Jesus introduces the lesson. But I sense that would be a great mistake to stop there.
God knows every single thing there is to know about us, and He recognizes us instantly without further proof. There is no need to suffer through a screening process. God knows our needs and how and when they are best served…even before we ask. There is no reason to “storm heaven” in hopes of wearing God down. God will address our needs at a time and in a way that is most beneficial to us. God would not disconnect us. God should not be placed in the role of the bad judge.
So what is the take-away here?
Let’s change the facts a bit. Think of how much easier life would have been for the poor widow if she had someone of power, influence, authority, or skill to speak on her behalf. What if she knew the judge’s sister…or was a friend of his major campaign donor? Again, drawing on our own life experience, we can be fairly confident that she would have known justice without having to ask twice.
Or…consider how the story would have ended if she were homebound…too sick to make her way to the judge’s office to plead her case. If there was no one else to speak on her behalf, her cause would be lost.
The unborn have no voice and are unable to plead for their lives. Refugees and the countless people left homeless by natural disasters very often flee their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs…no cell phones or electronic devices to make their claim for human dignity…no proof of identity. Take a walk through an assisted living facility or nursing home. You will quite likely hear someone begging…with persistence…for help. But they are ignored.
There are countless examples of people who are incapable of doing what the poor widow was able to do…overcome injustice with persistence. And that is where Christian discipleship enters this little parable. Those who have the ability and the resources are called to speak up on behalf of those incapable of representing themselves.
It is certainly a good thing to pray constantly. But it is Christ-like to speak out with persistence on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. IT IS RIGHT AND JUST!