FROM A READING FOR OCT. 17, 29TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'I will see to it that she gets her rights. If I don't, she will keep on coming and finally wear me out!'--Luke 18:5

Everyone knew what to expect years ago at Catholic Biblical Association Eucharists when, during the Prayer of the Faithful, the presider asked for petitions from the faithful.

Notre Dame's Josephine Massingbyrd Ford's prayer was memorable: "I echo the prayer of the wronged widow in Luke's Gospel. Let women in our Church be treated justly! We pray to the Lord!"

One day, we were studying an article written by a "J. Massingbyrd Ford" in a Scripture class. The student making the presentation referred to the author as "he."

At the end, Keith Nickle, our professor, mentioned, "By the way, the 'J.' in the author's name stands for 'Josephine.'" For a long time, Josephine had sent articles to biblical publications under the name Josephine Ford. The editors rejected them.

She began to incorporate her mother's maiden name into her signature and abbreviate Josephine to "J." The same editors who had sent rejection slips began to publish "his" articles, including some they had originally rejected!

Not everyone can overcome injustices by a name-change. We'll always have children of God petitioning unjust judges for a just decision. In its biblical definition, a "just" person is someone who treats others as God treats them.

Slow process
Christian history proves it take humans a long time to figure out how to imitate God's all-embracing personality. It took years before Jewish followers of Jesus began to treat Gentiles as they treated their fellow Jews; more than a millennium and a half before slaves were put on the same level as the free. And as Josephine Massingbyrd Ford noted, we're still working on the men/women thing.

Amid injustice, the insight in our II Timothy (3:14-4:2) passage is relevant: "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction and for training in righteousness."

Petitioning prayer isn't as simple as the Exodus author's narrative (Exodus 17:8-13) about Moses' "raised arms." Neither can one, like Luke's widow (Luke 18:1-8), always succeed by just badgering God.

That's why Jesus' closing question is so significant: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Scripture now
Scripture's a book of faith. It wasn't created to teach history or science. Its authors were successful when they helped their communities surface a dimension of faith they never noticed before.

Perhaps the dimension most needed today is perseverance in that faith, even when it appears there's little hope for justice. Lovers of Scripture are driven by the words of the II Timothy author: "Proclaim the word: Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching."

During a retired priests' retreat two years ago, Rev. John Dietzen (who writes the "Question Box" column that appears on page 2) rallied the spirits of participants.

Responding to the fears of some that reform from the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s was being rejected in today's Church, he said, "I have hope. As long as the Scriptures are proclaimed every weekend in the vernacular, someone, someday, is going to actually hear that word of God and change his or her life because of it."