in Ordinary Time
A Homily - Cycle C - 2012-2013
by Rev. Luke Dundon
First Reading - Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading - 1 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Gospel - Luke 17:5-10
Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." The Lord replied, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
"Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here immediately and take your place at table'? Would he rather not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished'? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'"
So I went into Giant Store and looked for mustard seed. They were in the spice section. Small little things. Not much bigger than a poppy seed. And Jesus is telling us what we could do if we HAD that much faith. Well that’s depressing - - - does that mean we don’t? I haven’t been able to launch any trees into the air . . . though a parishioner told me that he actually TRIED to do it when he was a kid . . . also unsuccessful . . .
Or how about Jesus saying that we should just call ourselves “unprofitable servants?” Also sounds depressing. Is that all we are? In the now world-famous interview, Pope Francis was asked by his interviewer, “Who is Jorge Bergoglio?” (That’s the pope’s original name). Who is this man? And so the Holy Father replied, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon with mercy.” Fascinating . . . so who are WE? How would someone respond if you stopped them on the street and asked, “What ARE you? WHO are you?” Interesting questions to ask on the street . . .
But seriously – if I happened to run into a Muslim, which there are MANY in Northern Virginia, and asked them this, I think the response would be quite interesting . . . . I was listening to a Lighthouse Catholic Media CD from the rack in the back of church which fascinated me . . . titled “Abba vs. Allah,” it dealt with the differences between Christianity, and Islam. Given by Catholic convert Scott Hahn, he talks about an interaction he had with a Muslim intellectual who wanted to debate with someone about the Trinity (impressive - we don’t see many CHRISTIANS who want to debate about the Holy Trinity!). So Scott reluctantly got together with him for breakfast, and began to talk about the Trinity, with God as our Father . . .
The Muslim immediately slammed down his fist, “Blasphemy!” He said. “How can you possibly talk about God as a FATHER? How can you possibly map a human attribute onto the Divine Being? God is our MASTER - - - we are only His SLAVES, or property!” It was then that Dr. Hahn recognized how different Christianity and Islam really are. For a Muslim traces his lineage from Abraham’s descendant Ishmael, born from a slave girl named Hagar. Muslims have thus seen themselves truly just as slaves or servants of God from the very beginning. They must appease their master as slaves do. Christians also trace their spiritual roots to Abraham, but via Isaac, a true SON born to Abraham’s WIFE, not slave, Sarah. And so, from the very beginning, Christians identify themselves as CHILDREN of God.
But, what about Jesus’ reminder to us? “After you have done everything, simply say that you did what you are supposed to do, you are unprofitable (or unworthy) servants.” So we ARE servants! Are the Muslims right? If so then all this WOULD be depressing. But perhaps we are LOOKING at this the wrong way. If we are children of God, if we are sons and daughters whom, like Pope Francis, the Lord has looked upon with mercy, then ok, we do what we are commanded to do, true. And, we ARE worthless servants, true. Why? Because we are WORTHLESS at BEING servants, we could not possibly satisfy divine love by our own efforts! Servants or slaves have to work so hard to satisfy their owner, what an EXHAUSTING relationship that would be with God. But if I am a son or a daughter of God, then my dignity AS a son or daughter does not DEPEND on what I DO, I simply AM His child. And that’s not depressing, that’s encouraging. And our world, which is quickly losing sight of this powerful truth, really NEEDS sons and daughters who are LIVING this reality, not just for themselves, but for others who ARE still enslaved by the illusions of this world.
So, before we ask anyone else, we ask ourselves – what ARE we? WHO are we? We are SO unprofitable at being servants, and thank God . . . for we ARE wonderful at being beloved children of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And as such, we have little seeds of faith which CAN move mountains – we just need to remember that. We need to live that. It’s time to get rid of the depressing illusions, and bring back the joyful reality of being His little ones, of being looked upon with mercy, for we have been given an identity which we could never earn, but we’ll never lose.