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(Part 27)


November 8, 2011
Today’s reading: Luke 17:7-10

When we serve, it is normal to want to be recognized, appreciated and thanked, and possibly even rewarded. Jesus in today’s gospel challenges that kind of thinking.

First, Jesus says our first priority is our Master, certainly before our own needs, rest and comfort (Lk 17:7-8). Second, in serving we should not expect to have to be thanked (Lk 17:9). Third, we are to be mindful that we are just doing our duty and in fact are unprofitable servants (Lk 17:10).

Now that seems harsh. But certainly we know that Jesus is not a heartless taskmaster. He in fact is a loving brother and friend. What then are we to make of his words?

First, Jesus just wants us to enter more deeply into discipleship. He requires disciples to deny themselves and take up their crosses. We are slaves of Jesus, who bought us at the price of his blood. We have no rights. We belong totally to him. We are to serve him without counting the cost.

Second, Jesus wants us to have no ulterior motives that can taint our service. We are not there for power, position or perquisites. We are not there for honor, acclaim or reward. We are there just to please our Master, even if our Master had no words of pleasure to express to us.

Third, Jesus wants to prepare and train us for the demanding work that lie ahead for those who truly want to serve him in building God’s kingdom. He is building endurance in us. We come in from the field tired and hungry, but we may still have to wait for our food and our rest. We are being trained to endure and to persevere. We are being trained to embrace suffering and pain.

Fourth, after everything we have done, we are to still consider ourselves as unprofitable servants. This is to teach us humility. We are servants through whom God will show His glory, but that is not to get to our heads. What we in fact need to realize is how we often are the obstacles to the work. God could have done greater things if only we were better instruments!

Finally, we are being reminded of our obligation to serve Christ. We live not for ourselves but in order to build God’s kingdom on earth. Every Christian has this responsibility. We are workers for the harvest. We are essential parts of the one body that is the Church. We are accorded the privilege of being instruments of God’s salvation.

So Jesus’ words are for our instruction, so that we may know our proper attitude as servants. But Jesus’ actions will not be those of a heartless Master.

Jesus in fact is the Master who put on an apron and washed the feet of his disciples.

Jesus is the one who lived out the ultimate service of love, to give his very life as a ransom for the many.

Jesus is the one who invites us to the banquet table of the Eucharist, to eat and drink of the very Bread of Life.

Jesus is the one who at the end of time will greet us, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into your Master’s joy.”

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