33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 13, 2016

MARK OF A TRUE SERVANT

By Dcn Garry F. Salguero

The book of Malachi gives us a detailed account of Israel’s disobedience. The Lord’s charges against Israel were that they were offering defective sacrifices (Malachi 1:8), their teachings caused many to stumble (Malachi 2:8), their men were unfaithful to their wives (Malachi 2:13–14), and they were complaining that it was futile to serve the Lord (Malachi 3:13–14). The Lord then made it clear that He hears and knows the desire and intent of every heart. A book of remembrance was written before the Lord for those who fear the Lord. Several places in Scripture refer to God’s “book” (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 56:8; 69:28; Daniel 7:10; 12:1; Revelation 13:8; 20:15). In His infinite knowledge God does not need a written record in order to keep track of human deeds. However, when He speaks to us, He often uses metaphor or parable to help us understand. As Malachi presented God’s words to the people, they would have understood what a book of remembrance represented. The kings of Persia kept such books, records of those who had rendered service to the king, that those servants might be rewarded. The book of Esther contains a good example of this (Esther 6:1–3). In Malachi 3:17 the Lord says, “‘On the day when I act . . . .” He is indicating that faithful service may go on for years with no apparent reward, but He is taking note. A day will come when He will act. One reason the Israelites had grown lax in their obedience and were becoming jealous of evildoers was that they thought the Lord did not see or care (Malachi 3:14–15; Psalm 94:7; Ezekiel 8:12).

In our Gospel today, Jesus commends the insignificant gift of a widow. While the Pharisees had “devoured widows’ houses,” the widow’s gift became the focus of our Lord’s praise and instruction. An insignificant amount of money greatly pleased Jesus, because of what it meant to her. It was her life, her livelihood, all that she had to live on. In giving this money, she showed her trust in God to provide for her needs, and to sustain her life. Her trust was in her God, not in her money. Poverty was no reason to cease in her giving to God.

We may have few resources, but let us not limit ourselves in serving the Lord. Perhaps there have been times when, because we saw the prosperity of evildoers, we stopped praying, or our interest in God’s word suddenly died. Perhaps we have complained about our situations or have become discouraged or began thinking of ourselves first before others. Perhaps someone on whom we were counting let us down. We did good things for others, yet we were falsely accused. We had high hopes for a person who turned against us. We prayed to God for something, and after waiting for a while it seemed there was no answer. We gave loving advice to our son or daughter but received rebellious answers in return. We were continuously barraged with criticism and slander.

But we are not hopeless. We must remain faithful, for these things are only temporary. We must disentangle ourselves from the idea of being rewarded with material things. Though nobody praises us, though no fruit should come from it, let us look beyond this present realm of death and gaze into the true reward, resurrection life with our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us do what we can do, and even attempt beyond what we think we can accomplish. But remember, it is God’s work in us rather than our own work, and whatever we have accomplished has been accomplished by God in us rather than by us for God. Never think of diminishing your service, rather increase it. This is the mark of a true servant.

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