WE HAVE ONLY DONE WHAT WAS OUR DUTY
(Biblical reflection on the 27th Ordinary Sunday [Year C] – 2 October 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 17:5-10
First Reading: Habakkuk 1:1:2-3;2:2-4; Psalms: Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; Second Reading: 2Timothy 1:6-8,13-14
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to the sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table’? Will he not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:5-10 RSV)
The words of Jesus here addressed to the apostles seem very hard, almost severe. Jesus is telling them that even when they have done all that He asks they should still consider themselves useless servants.
How can we explain these words of Jesus in light of His great love and understanding? We know that Luke’s is the Gospel of total dedication. We are reminded here in this short parable that we must be unceasing in our labors for Christ. Who are we to judge or to criticize the Lord? It is his privilege to ask much of us, to make demands. We simply are to live out His Will, to do the work He asks of us. The emphasis of the short parable is dedication – work when the Lord asks it, rest when He so decides. We really can never stop and relax with the idea that we have done enough. That decision is up to God.
Saint Paul understood this kind of total dedication well. He wasn’t looking for any special praise or reward. In his first letter to the Corinthians He writes, “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16 RSV).
These words of jesus were addressed to His apostles. They had just told Him their need for an increase of faith, if they were to follow Him in all His demands. Jesus simply answers with His demand for total dedication as if to say, “If you trust Me, do all I ask, your faith in Me will grow; it will be sufficient.”
We are the present day apostles. Jesus expects total dedication from us, too. We cannot rest on our laurels. We have done nothing unusual in His service, even if we have done what He asks of each of us. We ought simply to work for the Kingdom and put our trust in Him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty. Yet we trust in You to increase our faith and our love. Amen.
Jakarta, 1 October 2016 [Feast of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus]
A Christian Pilgrim