Will not God then do justice to his chosen who call out to him . . .
A long time ago the Greek philosopher Plato began to influence European thought with his allegory of the Cave. In it he portrays our condition as human beings. It’s as if we are all born into a cave and forced to face the back wall of the cave. Behind us beyond the entrance there is a bright fire blazing and in front of the fire puppets and other objects are paraded so that they are reflected on the cave wall in front of us as shadows that move. Today Plato might resort to motion pictures to make his point. I mean films are photographed on some actual studio set where real people act out a scene. But by the time they get to us in a darkened theater (like Plato’s cave) what we see is a mere projection of those scenes upon the screen in front of us. They are but projections, unreal, flat images that can be turned on or off.
This was Plato’s way of telling us we live in a world of shadows, everything we see is relatively unreal, transitory – which means you and I are but shadows, flat, unsubstantial images on a movie screen. Which is Plato’s way of saying real Reality is somewhere else, let’s say way beyond and above us – and philosophy provides us with a vertical path (upward bound) to that real world beyond our confinement to an environment of mere shadows. So what are you but a shadow of your true self; what is the Farmers Market but a shadow of real people and things?
Thanks to Plato our culture still tends to go vertical, to search on high for the really real in movie stars (far above us), in the upper class, among the high and mighty; or to bow before kings and queens (including beauty queens), sports legends and canonized saints painted on the ceilings of ancient churches; or in hierarchies of every kind, so that we all run the risk of thinking we are nothing at all, faces in the crowd, shadows of no worth. But not to worry! Plato is not as much in vogue as he used to be.
Christianity did not originate out of Greek, Platonic culture. It grew out of the hard life of the Middle East and Semitic ways of thinking – as expressed in our Bible. It arose out of a memory of unjust potentates and slavery in Egypt, the defiance of Moses, the migration of Jews who no longer believed in the shadows other peoples worshiped. Right into the New Testament it is about a God who though often perceived as “on high” actually meddled in human situations, became in Jesus even incarnate, one of us so called “shadows”, giving substance to how real we really are.
And in today’s parable we meet this wonderful woman who asserts her rights. The judge is almost a caricature of people who occupy the high places in society, who even in awarding compensation to a widow takes his time, seeks his leisure – no need to care about her pressing needs until he finally is dragged out of his bed to ward off her determined demand for attention. A God like that might be called the God of the Pharisees, indifferent, distant, self-absorbed, hiding always within his inner sanctum (or bedroom), unapproachable.
That’s not the God Jesus serves – or IS. He proclaims a God who sees us as really real as is everything else in this beautiful universe he created, even the least flower, even your very face worth an artist’s touch – a God ever awake to our frustrations, personal, caring about our individual self. Jesus brings God down to earth to release us from the cave we are so often even educated to inhabit – to waste our lives pursuing shadows despite our being surrounded by so much that is really real and marvelous.