29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 20, 2019
Sr Phyllis Jaszkowiak
Today’s Gospel tells the story of a woman who is seeking justice. She continually comes and badgers the Judge until she receives justice. A number of commentators praise the woman for being persistent. They sometimes equate the judge with God and the woman, who can be anyone, who persists in pleading and praying for justice until it is granted.
However, what if we turned that around. The woman is God who continually works to bring justice to the earth. The judge is ourselves who haven’t quite got the idea that we need to be just in all our dealings by coming to know God as one who seeks justice, and coming to know ourselves as the ones, through God working in us, to bring justice to the world. Fr. William Bausch says, “When the widow is seen as a God-like figure, then the message of the parable becomes crystal clear: Anyone who determinedly resists injustice – faces it, names it, and denounces it until right is achieved – is acting as God does, is God-like.”
God seeks justice, through us, in many areas, especially in the trafficking of humans for profit, whether it be sexual exploitation or labor exploitation, modern day slavery. We can look in our own neighborhood to the tearing down of the Sugar Shack that now makes room for affordable housing. It took many long years of people, mostly women, complaining about the Shack before it was finally closed. Now we can see the results of those years of action doing good instead of evil.
My Religious Community has taken a stand against all forms of human trafficking. One of the ways we do this is to file shareholders resolutions at Company shareholders meetings. At first the resolution is brushed off as just a bunch of women who know nothing about business. However, if enough people back the resolution this gets the attention of the CEOs and they begin to talk. Some of the time, through negotiation, a more just way to do business can result. It takes time and persistence to continue talking and negotiating.
About 8 years ago my Community put forth a resolution at the Hershey Company. When the Company saw 4 Religious congregations backing this resolution, they called us to talk. After 8 years of negotiation, we finally came to an agreement. By 2020 Hershey would commit to using 100% Fair Trade Cocoa. This means that child labor would not be used to grow and harvest the cocoa, that the earth would be used in a sustainable way to grow the cocoa, and that laborers would be paid living wages for the work they do. I am proud that my Community led this work for justice, for the children, the earth and the laborers.
A few years ago there was a documentary that tells of two African Countries trying to negotiate peace with each other. The men at the negotiating table would talk for an hour or so and then adjourn to their hotels until the next day. After 3 or 4 months of nothing being done, the women of the two countries met together. They gathered many women and surrounded the building where the negotiations were taking place. They did not let the men out of the building, giving them only water, until they negotiated in earnest. It took less than a week and a peace accord was reached. Maybe we should do something like that to make our Senate work together for justice in our own country.
Women Religious, throughout the world, have been working for justice since the beginning of their orders leading the way to get God’s justice in our world. We have started hospitals for those who cannot afford medical care, began schools for those who did not have access to education, housed and advocated for immigrants in all countries, fought to save portions of the earth for indigenous peoples, lobbied for stricter laws against human trafficking, and opened safe houses for women rescued from sexual trafficking.
I brag a little about what women have done, actually what God has done through women. Unfortunately there is always more to do. We humans haven’t quite got the idea that Justice comes first, rather than power, money, or control. We seem to have to wait for God to continually pester us until we accept God’s grace to see what is wrong and then do the right.
Let us then, like the woman in the Gospel who didn’t give up, open ourselves to be the conduit through which God works to bring God’s Justice to the world.