Homily for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (October 2)
The parable of Jesus today compares the disciples to slaves. This is certainly part of the larger message Jesus has been giving that disciples are to be servants, and are never to rise above that position. Why does Jesus use this parable? In a few verses just before this reading, Jesus gives some proverbial advice to the apostles, things like it would be better to be thrown into a lake with a large stone hung around one’s neck than to cause someone to fall into sin. He also tells them that they must forgive, even if the person comes back seven times for the same offense to beg forgiveness.
The Apostles are hearing very difficult things – even scary things – for anyone who is to minister. It is no wonder then, that at the beginning of today’s Gospel they say to Jesus, “Increase our faith”. You have to help us out here!
Jesus’s response is kind. He basically says that even a little faith will get you a long way. And this indicates, I presume, that they all had at least some faith in Jesus and God!
The parable then follows.
The parable is strange to our ears in this day of non-slavery. But we must remember that slaves were considered property, property that you took care of, but still property, and the slave owners expected obedience. If they sent you out into the fields all day to work and you came home tired but were asked to do even more (even though you thought it might be nice to be invited to sit down to supper with the family for your work and compliance), you did what you were told to do, simply because you are worthless in yourself and have done nothing more than what was expected. You aren’t going to get any extras, any coddling, any special praise for doing what you were asked to do. Neither will God give us extra credit for what we are expected to do.
I guess life isn’t always fair, is it? In the first reading today we hear the prophet Habakkuk crying to God for help because he is so sick of seeing all the wrongdoing and violence in the world. I want something more, he says. But God answers him that he must simply write down what he sees, and not to worry about it. If you are righteous and faithful, you will be around to see the destruction of the proud. But again, don’t expect anything more for just doing what I asked. It is simply living by faith.
Getting back to the Gospel, Jesus has indicated that even with a small bit of faith, nothing can be ruled out as being impossible. Why is that? How can that be? Because with even a little faith, you are connected to God, and God can do the impossible. God is empowering the apostles in their leadership and it only takes a wee bit of faith to set it in action.
But even if this is true, the parable still holds. There can be no time that the apostles can say, “OK, I have done what you asked me to do. Now it is my turn to be served.” Jesus indicated that it will never be time for them to be served – that being his apostles means that they are forever servants.
I wonder how the apostles must have felt upon hearing that. Those are hard words. But Jesus never said being an apostle wouldn’t be hard, only that if they have faith, they can do anything.- for others!
Now, if this reading is addressed to the Twelve, does that mean the rest of you are off the hook? Do you get to be the ones served? I don’t think so. Sorry.
Jesus called everyone to be followers. Indeed the very early church was a collection of people who were all called to spread the Good News. The Spirit that Paul exclaims about in the letter to Timothy today is given to us so that we can have that faith and love that make us servants and allow us to pass on the teachings we were given. It wasn’t till later that a hierarchy developed, but originally everyone had a charism or gift that they were to use to help spread the Word.
The same is true today although we often think our ordained clergy are the ones who do all that. I believe this is something entrusted to all of us, and it is only in serving others, taking care of the needs of others that our salvation will lie. In any case, I urge you today to examine what kind of faith you have and to know that, even if it is just a little…. nothing is impossible because God can do anything!
This is the responsibility of the Good News that we hear about today, and though it sounds difficult, you must find the gift of service God has given you, and use it to strengthen our community and the community around us. The Good News isn’t always about us and our needs, is it? But it is still Good News for everyone else! God bless.
Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]