Monday, November 9, 2015

We are unprofitable servants

In tomorrow's readings for the Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, we see an interesting statement from Jesus.  How different things are today in our society, or at least they appear to be.  In the early times of humanity slavery was prevalent and a part of life.  How difficult a life it must have been for the slave to come in from the field and instead of getting to sit down after a long day at work, he must first prepare a meal for his master.  The servant of course did his job, and the parable asks the question "Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?"  An interesting thought isn't it.

Two things I think that I take from this interesting and challenging parable.  First and foremost, I think that we take for granted those around us.  How often we blow up when things don't go the way they should be.  The kitchen sink is full of dishes and we are quick to remind those around us that it should have been done.  The toilet paper is on the counter, just a mere 15 inches from the spool, and someone didn't go ahead and put it on? Someone unloaded the groceries into the cabinet but put the crackers in the wrong cabinet.  Oh, how we will let them know too, won't we? 

Do we though take time to notice when they do the things they are by nature supposed to do?  It's often only when they haven't done their job that we mention anything.  Why didn't you take out the trash?  Why haven't you picked up your room?  Why weren't you outside when I got here to pick you up?  Do we then also thank them when they do those things?  I think most of the time we forget to say a word, and I think that also causes strains on our relationships.   It seems like it's always negative.. never positive.  We need to make sure we say "Thank you for taking out the trash."  "I really appreciate it that you were on time today."  "Wow you're room looks nice, thanks for picking it up."  Are we treating our family like family? Or like we are their master and they our slaves?

The other thing though, in a more spiritual sense, is that the parable teaches us something very powerful about our relationship with God.  Saint Paul calls himself "a slave for Christ Jesus."  Often times we don't like that word.  The thing is though as Catholics we do indeed belong to our God.  We have obligations to Him, not to earn anything.. not to merit heaven, not to 'rack up' points.. but rather, because we are in a relationship.  God has come to be with us and he has said, "Look if you want to be in a relationship with me, this is how you need to act.. and this is how I will act."  "I will be your God and you will be my people." 

Too many think we Catholics think we are earning our way to heaven.  I think some Catholics even think that way.  The thing is salvation is by grace, and grace alone.  We don't earn it. We don't have to get more good points than bad points.  No, we believe that Jesus did everything necessary for us to get to Heaven on the cross.  It doesn't end there though.  It's up to us to continue and apply that to our lives.  We are His people now.  We do what we do because it's how we are supposed to act. We are His people, and as the Scripture proclaims, "They will know you are my disciples if you love one another."  Grace is free. We must take it though, and use it.. apply it.. spread it into the world. Not because we will be rewarded for doing what we should be doing.. .no, much like the slave, we shouldn't expect thanks for doing it.. it's just what we should be doing by our nature...

I think though that this parable also challenges us to go beyond just that "which we ought to do."  Too many think of our faith in simple terms of "what is the least I can do to get to Heaven."  Rather, we don't want to be unprofitable servants who have just done what "we are obliged to do."  No, we want to go above and beyond.  We want to do not just the bare minimum, but to do the most we can.  It's not about the part we have to give, it's about giving it all.  It's about giving your very life, every ounce of energy, every thought, every word, every penny, every single second of your time for the Kingdom of God.  It's about getting to the point where we aren't looking for a reward at the end, but we are just giving it all because we love God, and we love our neighbor.  It's about running that race, one day at a time.. in hopes that we can cross the finish line..   It's not a bar to hit, not a minimum to achieve.. it's a relationship.. with a person named Jesus.

How do you want to cross the line into Heaven?  Do you want to come across the line and Jesus look at you and say "You are an unprofitable servant.  You have only done what you were obliged to do."  Or do you want him to say, "Well done my good and faithful servant," and again, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. "

I don't know about you... but I've got some work to do. Are you with me?

His servant and yours,