If I ask you today a big question, how or what will be the answer? Now here goes the question: WHO ARE THE ANAWIM IN THE BIBLE? Have you come up with the answer? And if so, what kind of an answer? Is it the right one? Or have you just been dumbfounded by the question? If so, it may behoove you to imprint a knowledgeable answer in your mind: The Anawim were the poor of Yahweh in the Old Testament. Anawim is a Hebrew word that means "overwhelmed by want". It relates to the extreme poverty and not just physical poverty but to the lack of support and connections of any kind, social or familial, felt by people, poor and marginalized, who could only rely on God as source of hope and worth, and through that trust, even if everyone had forgotten them, Yahweh/God will not fail them. These "poor" lived and died outside of the circle of care and concern of anyone at that time. The Prophets spoke and issued great warnings against a society that trampled the poor, the widow and the orphan. In Hebrew society they had no value. That is why Psalm 34 prays: "The Lord hears the cry of the poor".
Most surely the poor widow of the Gospel from Luke 18 this Sunday is part of that group. They were non-entities primarily because in a society dominated by men, an orphan or a widow lacked any worth in society. And Jesus in that Parable lets his inner circle know that there is something wrong with that concept. It is a formative Parable, for them and for us. We may feel like clapping and say: WELL DONE, for that poor widow of the Bible and her plight with the corrupt judge who finally gives her the justice so long denied and whose story we have heard so many times. There are not a lot of times that the small can defeat the giant unless, of course, we speak about the story of David and Goliath. The parable of the poor widow about whom we read this Sunday is a noble story and one that resonates with us in our daily struggles of life. It is, after all, a lesson in PERSISTENCE and PERSEVERANCE, qualities that one must exercise in PRAYER. That is the moral behind the story told by Jesus. It is a formative lesson for the Apostles. If the judge, unjust as he is, relents under pressure and is able to hear the case and plea for justice from the poor widow, think how much more a good God will be eager to answer the prayers of his beloved children. The lesson would have been clear for the Apostles, listening to Jesus.
Most probably Jesus was keenly aware of the glaring disparities built into the social and cultural world of his own time. There were people then and there are people now who feel they are completely left out, marginalized, disenfranchised. The Church teaches that God shows "preferential love" for the poor. The Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 28, opens our eyes so that we may have the vision of Christ, and we may see others, especially the poor, with the eyes of Christ. The hungry, the thirsty, the poor, the prisoners, the naked, "Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters you did it for me" (Mat. 28: 40). The great saints and apostles to the poor like St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660), Blessed Frederic Ozanam, (1813-1853) a layman from Paris, a lawyer, and the Founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Conferences in the world to help the poor, invite us to see in them the broken face of Christ. Our Masters, St. Vincent de Paul calls the poor. They will open the door of heaven for us.
Prayer is the oxygen which the Christian breathes in order to live. Prayer is a connection with the divine who is the source of everything we are and everything we do. We might like to be in control of our life but in the end we are only perfect when we become fully dependent. And that habit of childlike dependence is only fostered through prayer. A prayer that is other oriented, that is second nature to us as we walk through the daily routine of our life, a prayer that is an awareness of God's presence to us and of us being present to God. Prayer is a life, an attitude, a habit, a virtue that connects us with the God that is more deeply rooted in us than we are ourselves. A prayer which as the poor widow symbolizes is persevering and constant.
And so we go forward in life, we attempt to fulfill the command of praying always and without ceasing (I Thes. 5: 16-18), to be at prayer at all times. And in these times of social media fever, we too, must be connected with God in order to live. We do that through prayer. Constantly.
May God's peace be with you,