Lord of the Harvest: Urgency, CP Churchplants.
When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’ Luke 17:10
Well today’s readings offer a significant challenge to us all. Reading the gospel of the 27th Sunday seems to to offer nothing but drudgery, slavery even. Having worked all day, Jesus says, don’t expect the employer to offer you thanks or help or praise, because you have simply done what you are paid for and expected to do. Nothing more, nothing less. Having come back to the master’s house after a day of work, do not expect an invitation to sit down and feast, rather be prepared for a command to get the dinner ready for the boss! Only then, Jesus says, can you rest, but yet don’t wait for praise you might think you’re due after such a day. You have simply done what is required of you. And that is expected day after day until the last day… St. Paul today today tells us to bear our share of hardship for the gospel, but be assured that we don’t do that alone; our strength comes from God. And today’s first reading says that although everything around us might be darkness and ruin, “the vision” (presumably offering hope and victory) will come in its own good time. So although times might be bleak they are not permanent; better times will come. But that is in the Old Testament. There seems to be more hope in the New, because we follow where Jesus went, and for us the ultimate hope lies in the resurrection and eternal happiness.
So today’s readings might well be a corrective for unwarranted self-praise or resentment because we have not been praised or rewarded for work done or achievement attained. In fact, that sort of resentment can gnaw at the soul relentlessly, causing great damage. In that case, Jesus’ words today might well come as healing: don’t expect any praise at all, simply doing what is required of us to the best of our ability is satisfaction enough. We have simply done our duty as servants of the Lord. But remember another teaching of the Lord if all this seems to be totally bleak: “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into my happiness” (Matthew 25:23). It can be safely assumed that this servant did exactly what Jesus is telling us today in the gospel. We must do what we must do in obedience to the Lord’s command, expecting nothing in this life. So hope is important here. If life is tough, if we are at our wits end, if there is no sign of rescue or help, we must struggle on in hope. Remember Our Lord on the cross: that is exactly what he looked out on from his cross. Yet he did not despair; God was, in some incredible way, still present. It is from that belief we draw out strength when events and situations overwhelm us. Hope in the Lord is our passport through any challenge no matter how devastating it might seem to be. Each of us has been put on this earth with the clear expectation that we are here for each other. Through that belief we are called to goodness, and if at any time we are the ones in need of help, let us hope there are others ready to do that; if not, then we throw ourselves on the mercy of the Lord, the source of eternal mercy.
The Intercession of Christ and the Virgin, attrib. Lorenzo Monaco 1402, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.