In Luke’s gospel, the apostles say to the Lord, “Increase our faith”. And he replies in effect, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can do anything’. Jesus wants them to realize their full potential. He’s afraid they’ll sell themselves short. They may feel they’re too old or too young or too weak or whatever else they see as hindrances to their faith. He wants to impress on them that they can achieve anything with the help of God’s grace.
But Jesus’ examples sound strange and even politically incorrect to our ears and our way of thinking. For example, we say “Thank you” to people who wait on us in restaurants – and to many other people who are simply doing their job. And we ourselves feel put out and annoyed when other people don’t thank us for what we’ve done for them. But in the culture of Jesus’ day, people didn’t have these same expectations – especially in the clearly- defined roles of master and servant. So, we have to examine the message beneath this seeming-clash-of-cultures.
In our modern democratic society, we’re a little uncomfortable with the notion of a servant class – and especially with the example Jesus presents – that after a hard day’s work in the fields, the servant should wait on his master hand and foot and expect no special thanks ‘because he’s just doing his job’! This would be impossible to accept if it were not for the fact that Jesus himself told us: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.
So, the upshot is – we’re called, as disciples, to serve as Jesus did. Not an easy task by a long shot. We may be tempted to underestimate the way God’s grace can work through our weakness – or overestimate our own abilities and not realize that God is working through our strengths. We may think it all depends entirely on us, but the fact is God works through both our strengths and our weaknesses to bring all our efforts to fulfillment.
And now comes the best part – even though we have to admit that “we are unprofitable servants, doing only what we’re obligated to do” – if we truly strive to serve one another according to the beatitudes, one day we will hear Jesus say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come enter the kingdom my Father has prepared for you from the creation of the world.”
- Fr. Damian Towey, CP is a member of the community at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center, North Palm Beach ,Florida.