Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Walking in Joyous Duty
Habakkuk 1: 12-2: 4
Psalm 37: 1-9
2 Timothy 1: 1-10
Luke 17: 5-10
Jesus said, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” He did say that there will be a return for obeying Him and heeding His invitation. Jesus also said that he who has left house, farm, business or family for His sake will also receive 100 times as much. Jesus offered rewards for responding to Him, but sometimes, we emphasize the reward or the return as the prosperity gospel teaches. There should be a balance for Jesus also said, “If one wishes to come after Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him.” This says to deny oneself and not look for a reward. Take up his cross, and not look for a walk in the part, and then, follow Him.
As Jesus gives a parable in today’s gospel, it said that we should have the attitude of a servant who, after working all day in the field at the heat of the sun and gets tired, walks home to his master’s house and is not entitled to rest. He is expected first to prepare dinner for his master and then get dressed up to serve his master his dinner and clean after his master eats, and only then can he eat and rest. He is not even entitled to a “thank you” from his master.
Jesus says to us that we should get this attitude. There is nothing wrong with rewards for God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We leave that to Him. It is good to have friends and to belong to a community or a family, and it is good to be recognized. We should provide for anyone that we would invite to join us in our Church or in our community and offer them the fulfillment of gaining friends and finding a home and get this feeling of belonging to a family. It is good to be appreciated because we attract people by offering this. It is not just good but Christ-like to heed the gospel message of humility and service without expecting anything in return. This is when we discover the real joy of our Master – He who gives unconditionally and He who gives and gives. What can we give that He has already given? What do we have that is not already His?
We cannot repay our God. What should motivate us, what should keep us going is the zeal and the joy to do God’s will. It is not the reward that we can get out of doing so. Even if there is conflict, difficulty and there are challenges, our zeal and our commitment is not based on those external things, but on the internal things from the heart that motivate us.
We should be motivated by our thankfulness. It is our realization of how much God has blessed us and the extent that He would go so that He could provide this for us. Philippians 2 says, “Jesus stripped Himself of His divinity and His glory and became obedient to His Father even to the point of death so that He could give life to us.” If we realize this, we won’t even expect to hear “Thank You” from God because we would say, “I should be thanking Him!” The truth is that what we are doing is not enough to repay for what He has done for us, not that He is demanding a repayment. Our obedience, our service, our good works are merely a response of thanksgiving to Him who already loved us, to Him who already blessed us, and to Him who already lavishly and richly supplied all things to enjoy.
I would always say that God doesn’t need our help. Why is He asking us to contribute to making a Church building when He can snap His fingers and come up with a building? Why is He commanding us to do this? This is for us to discover the joy of our Master – the joy that is derived from giving and giving and giving unconditionally without any expectation of reciprocation. His command is so that when we do what He says, His joy may be in us, and that our joy may be full. God wants His command to us to become more and more joy, less and less duty; more and more joy and less and less obligation. It doesn’t mean that we will not have a work load. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have to do anything more. It just means that we will find fulfillment in fulfilling the task that He has given to us.
Now, we understand the Genesis mandate more clearly. God created all things, but why did He ask Adam to cultivate and to keep? God wants Him to participate in His work. In doing so, he will have the joy of the Master in him. It is work with fulfillment. When sin and the curse came, Adam started to sweat, which in the Bible means a sign of anxiety, a lack of peace and fulfillment. It also means the absence of joy in doing God’s work.
The gospel is foolishness in the eyes of those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, to us who are discovering the joy, the fulfillment of serving and of giving, it is the power and wisdom of God. Jesus is illustrating in the gospel something that is demanding when it comes to one’s rights. A slave does not have rights. In fact, a master can hurt his slave if he disobeys or grumbles and the master is not liable for anything. A slave is not entitled to a “thank you” for his job is a thankless job.
This is the attitude that Jesus wants us to have. The parable is not so much about positions as it is about attitude. We are children of God, and we are being taught and instructed to serve our Father with the attitude of a slave. Only then, will we discover the joy of serving Him. We will discover the joy of our Master. May we reach that point so that we can be able to say like the Messiah said in Psalm 40, “I delight to do Your will, O my God. Your law is in my heart.” It is a fulfillment for Jesus to obey His Father’s commands. It is not a burden to Him, but He is freely, joyfully obeying His Father. Jesus said, “My food (My life) is to do the will of My Father who sent Me.” This is what gives Jesus’ life and what keeps Him. The whole meaning of His life is to do His Father’s will.
Jesus’ answer to the faith that can move mountains in this parable was given in response to a request of the disciples to increase their faith. Faith is not about positive thinking. Faith is not a “telekinesis” of making something happen without using your hands and that it is all in the mind. Faith is faithfulness. Faith comes from the word: creed; cor (heart) + dare (to give). Faith is to give our heart into what we believe. It starts from the heart and translated into tangible things –through our hands that whatever our hands sets to do, it comes from our heart because this is what we believe. We are command to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength. If we do this, we will not be forced to give; we will not be forced to obey; our obedience will not be dependent on circumstances or on rewards or incentives. We will be pushed by what is our heart. We live it until it becomes a part of our lives. Habbakuk said, “The righteous will live by faith.” It is translated in our lives coming from the heart.
We define faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen. I hope to be like Jesus someday; we should hope to be like Jesus someday and hope to have His character seen our lives. This hope is not yet seen. What sometimes is seen is not that which we hoped for. We ought to be like Jesus and we put our heart towards this so that one day what we hoped for can be manifested and seen – His humility, His kenosis (denying Himself of the glory and became incarnate by obeying His Father even to the point of death). This is what the parable teaches us so that we will also have His heart and give the way He gave.
My prayer and what our future direction or goal is that we be unconditional givers. God gives unconditionally – with no strings attached. He is ever-blessing and as He is ever blessed. This is what Jesus wants us to understand and wants us to obey. Jesus wants His joy in us. This is His nature. This is who are God is. This is Whom we are to know and to live and to make known. It is also simply because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.