Sunday, October 2, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place in ourselves for those who love us.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

The Gospel today focus on two themes: the power of faith; and dutiful service.

The apostles frequently asked questions of Jesus: informational ones or specific actions from him.

Today was no different. They asked the Lord to “increase our faith.”

He did respond, but he didn’t do what they asked. Rather, he gave them a response contrasting two hyperbolas.

His first combined two proverbial ideas into one hyperbolic statement. He said that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed (hyperbole — one of the tiniest seeds) that you could say to this mulberry tree (one of the most deeply and tenaciously rooted), “be uprooted!”

Not likely, though.

Then he added to this idea another hyperbole by saying you could plant it in the sea — clearly one of the most unlikely places since this tree could not possibly grow there.

The exaggeration makes the point super strongly, which is exactly what hyperbole is meant to do — exaggerate through the example to make the point or meaning even stronger.

What the apostles were asking for was nothing in comparison to what Jesus wanted to give them — extraordinary faith and trust in God.

***

In A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous), and other 12-step programs, people in the group take on tasks or responsibilities of service to the group. At each meeting they usually give a little report to the group, and typically they finish their report with the words: “Thanks for letting me serve.”

Thanks? Why would one be thankful or grateful for being allowed to serve. The Gospel today gives some understanding to this simple yet profound attitude.

Most of us could never really relate to an example involving slaves. In our national consciousness we have developed an abhorrent response to the very idea of slavery. We wish we could erase the reality and any memory of it from our history.

But in Jesus’ time it was a part of the social fabric of both the Romans and the Jews. It was acceptable. In fact, some people sold themselves into slavery with the hope that one day they could be emancipated.

Even so, there were expectations of a slave, both from the master and from the slave. The slave knew what was expected. To do the service was to be responsible and fulfill one’s obligation as a slave.

Not anyone would think that a slave was to be thanked. It was simply their job. They were unworthy (that is, not worthy of praise), because they were only fulfilling their duty.

Duty was dignified. Duty could bring one’s freedom. Duty was a moral obligation and one’s responsibility.

Jesus was probably directing this parable at the Pharisees who routinely thought they deserved to be praised for what they did.

We are at our best when we realize who and what we are. As God’s creation we have been loved into existence and blessed each day. This is not because of what we do, but because of who God is. He loves us all — the good and the bad — equally and always.

His example to us is and was to love and to serve. In this we find meaning, life, satisfaction, joy, dignity, and have no problem saying the words: “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty” (Luke 17:10).

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

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