Saturday, October 1, 2016

Oct. 2, 2016: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Oct. 2, 2016: 27th Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily

Most of us are familiar with paying invoices from an electrician, plumber, and lawn contractor. Have you ever received and paid invoices from your children? I read a story of an 8-year old boy named Bradley who one morning came down to breakfast table and handed his mom a piece of paper which read, Mother owes Bradley: $3.00 for running errands, $2:00 dollars for taking out the trash, $2.00 dollars for sweeping the floor, $1:00 dollar for all other extra things he did for the total sum of $8.00. His mother looked at the invoice with a smile. Later when Bradley came to lunch, his mother handed him $8:00 and a folded paper. He quickly put the cash in his pocket and then began to read the piece of paper. It read, Bradley owes Mother: nothing for being good to him, nothing for nursing him through his chicken pox, nothing for shirts and shoes and toys, nothing for his meals and beautiful room. Bradley sat looking at his new invoice without saying a word. After a few minutes, he pulled the $8:00 out of his pocket, and placed them in his mother's hand. After that, Bradley helped his mother out of love. Bradley came to realize that he was, as Jesus puts it in today’s parable, an “unprofitable servant.” In other words, Bradley’s mother has done more for him than he could ever do for her in return.

Our Lord calls us “unprofitable servants.” What does he mean? Did he mean  that our service is of no value?  No, elsewhere in the gospel he said, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:38) Rather, Jesus meant that we gain no “bonus points” or merit from our service. In our Gospel today, it is important to understand that it is not the servant who is in charge, but the master. So the servant does not choose how he will serve, nor when he serves. And the servant must serve with proper attitude toward serving, namely: no self-pity, no complacency or laziness, and no expectation of recognition or a bonus.

Imagine that you are at the pearly gates and you hand Jesus an invoice that reads: for services rendered, I should be allowed to enter.  The detail of the invoice reads: “You owe me for tithing to your church, for perfect attendance at mass on Sundays, for spending time talking to you in prayer, for being committed to work, for being faithful to my spouse, for being good to my family, and for occasionally helping out my neighbor.” Jesus smiles and hands you a crucifix and a folded paper. The paper reads, “Invoice: for creating you out of nothing, for purchasing your life with my passion on the Cross, for baptising you in order to wipe out Original Sin from your soul and make you an adopted child of My Heavenly Father, for giving you My entire self in the Eucharist at mass, for absolving you of your terrible sins committed against Me and your neighbor, and for giving you entrance to eternal life in Heaven with My Father. Total cost: nothing.”

Mother Teresa understood what the term “unprofitable servant” meant when she said, “When you come face to face with God, you cannot but know that you are nothing, that you have nothing...It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself...When you become full of God then you can give God to others.”

We are not salaried employees of Jesus. What we have already received from Him and continue to receive, we cannot repay. Our duty is to use the gifts we have already received in service of others, out of gratitude to God and not expect anything in return. It is also pointless to compare responsibilities of one person against another, thinking we’ve done more than others. At the pearly gates, can you imagine me, a priest, handing Jesus an invoice for an entrance ticket to heaven just because I am a priest? I will be more severely judged because more is expected of me. God has a plan for each one of us as unique individuals, a plan for us to serve Him, and to be sanctified in serving Him, according to the natural human capacities He has given us.

Each of us is called to serve God and others through the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit that were placed in us at baptism and confirmation. St. Paul’s encouragement to young Timothy is meant for all of us when he said, “I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord...but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

We are not all called to be at the pulpit or preaching in the streets, but we are called to be servants of Jesus, day in and day out, in the ordinary experiences of life. Are we ready to give our best to God with generous love and gratitude for all that He has done for us?