Will He Find Any Faith?
“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
Luke prefaces the parable of the Importunate Widow with the call to pray continuously without losing heart, then, tells how the widow, after unrelentingly pestering the unscrupulous judge, receives a just settlement. Lastly, he unleashes this fateful question of Jesus.
This Gospel snapshot, on first read, seems disjointed. It begins as if it’s a primer on prayer, yet, the widow is not portrayed as prayerful or pious, but as demanding justice against her enemy; the judge has no similarities to God; and it concludes with Jesus’ startling question about his Second Coming.
The beauty, of a portrait painted in broad strokes, is hidden close up -one must back away from it to capture its fullness. So too, the Truth of these eight verses lies hidden until we back away from its literal setting. Like a good painting, this parable makes its statement through contrast. If a feisty widow, with nagging, can secure just settlement from a secular judge who hands out justice based on personal profit, how much more can a person of faith, with unrelenting prayer, find Recompense from a merciful God?
On the surface, Jesus is telling us if we persevere in prayer, especially when it seems like God is not listening, we will surely be rewarded. But, that he seals this parable with the Daunting Question, ‘will he find any faith on earth?’, speaks of something deeper than the shallow motivation of getting what we want if we persist in asking –he is summoning us to a life of Faith; to live as if God’s Promise is true, and to do so, not only in the absence of evidence, but even when evidence is to the contrary.
This kind of intractable Faith, is what gave Abraham the strength to offer his only begotten son. It goes against our feelings, desires, and logic. It offers no proof, but demands unconditional commitment. As such, it is as uncommon as the ‘hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it’ (Mt 7:14). Jesus forewarns us, that when he comes again, he will be looking for Faith, and he wonders aloud, if he will find any.
He frames this intractable Faith as rare among men because it is not of man. It cannot be conjured up like a fanciful wish, nor called forth as a feat of strength. It cannot be earned. It is won only by surrendering -to an Unseen Power, and at that, it is usually discovered after exhausting all other options. If it is ever secured, it is only after having lost it many times. It is never neat and tidy, but tattered and bloody. Once known it cannot be unknown, yet it is easily forgotten in times of comfort.
Faith is an ephemeral mystery because it is a Gift not of our world –it is the Stuff of God. We must believe it before we can know it -as courage cannot exist outside of fear, Faith cannot exist outside of uncertainty. It exists in the absence of what we desire; in our desperation for consolation; in the strength of our weakness; in the impossible hoped possible.
We can no more grasp Faith with our mind than we can hold onto Jello with our fingers, yet Faith is our only link to God –our only lifeline to transcend suffering and death. As such, Faith is the Supreme Gift. It is given for all to freely receive, yet the Many have rejected it. Now, all gifts are given on the terms of the Giver, so isn’t it curious then, that Man would spurn the God-Given because it is not on his terms? Oh, the Curse of Pride! It is Pride then, which gives Christ the pause to wonder if he will find any Faith on earth.Lord, the Importunate Widow’s tragedy was her blessing –her poverty robbed her of the luxury of Pride -she was free to beg for mercy. Oh Holy Spirit of my Lord Jesus, rob me of my Pride. May my poverty of spirit free me to relentlessly beg your Mercy. Good Father, I shall ever praise you for sending your Son to make straight the Way.