Entrance Antiphon: Est 4:17 — “Within Your will, O Lord, all things are established, and there is none that can resist Your will. For You have made all things, the heaven and the earth, and all that is held within the circle of heaven; You are the Lord of all.”
First Reading: Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4 — “The just one, because of his faith, will live.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 — “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”
Second Reading: 2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14 — “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord.”
Alleluia: 1 Pt 1:25 — “Alleluia, alleluia. The word of the Lord remains for ever. This is the word that has been proclaimed to you. Alleluia, alleluia.”
Gospel: Lk 17:5-10 — “If you have faith!”
Communion Antiphon: Lam 3:25 — “The Lord is good to those who hope in Him, to the soul that seeks Him.”
As I was reflecting on today’s Scripture readings, there were a lot of things rolling around in my head. I remembered it was Pro-Life / Respect Life month. I remembered it was the month of the Rosary. And as I was contemplating all of the facets of the readings and the significance of the month for its multiple reasons, I also found myself daydreaming a bit … reminiscing about an English course I had on Shakespeare back during my senior year of high school. In particular, his popular comedy “As You Like It,” came to mind. In the play, Shakespeare tells the story of a young nobleman named Orlando and his love for the beautiful but seemingly unattainable Rosalind. Orlando has been mistreated by his elder brother since their father’s death. After Orlando wins a wrestling match and Rosalind’s affection, his brother plans to destroy him. But the young hero is warned by his brother’s former servant, an old man named Adam. “Let me be your servant,” Adam says, promising to provide whatever services Orlando requires. He vows to follow Orlando with “truth and loyalty.” He then spends his entire savings to help Orlando escape to the forest. Once the hero is safe and sure to win his lady love, Adam quietly fades away. He neither requires nor receives any special commendation for his service. The interesting part of the play we learned, was that when it was first written and performed, Shakespeare chose to play the part of Adam.
When children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I don’t think the answer, especially in this day and age would be, “A servant.” But guess what? That is exactly what Jesus called His disciples to be. For those who saw servants as slaves who simply did whatever they were told, His teaching must have been a hard swallow. But they came to understand, as Saint Thomas à Kempis put it, that “All is vanity but to love and serve the Lord.” Those who had the humility to serve as Jesus did would most genuinely be His presence in the world in every generation.
When the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith, He advises that they need to use what they already have. Like those first followers, we often convince ourselves that we are lacking in faith or are not up to the task of lifting up the poor ... the sick ... the immigrant ... the wounded ... the misguided or the depressed ... the unborn … whoever needs to know that Jesus is at his or her side. We dare not believe how much of a difference we can make in this world. But as Martin Luther King recognized, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” The prophet Habakkuk convinced himself that he was a failure because God had not yet come to save Judah from the savage rule of Babylon. Yet Habakkuk continues to serve the Lord by standing at the ramparts and writing down the vision he receives. God will intervene in God’s own time. But the people must live by faith until divine justice prevails. Whether our faith is the size of a mustard seed or a full-grown pumpkin, we make Jesus more visible whenever we embody His presence to others through loving service. Take some time this week to truly consider that.
When the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith, He in effect says that they need an attitude adjustment. Slavery or servanthood was a deeply entrenched cultural practice among the first-century Jews. From the point of view of the master, the slave existed solely to serve his wishes. The servant had no right to expect recompense or reward for doing what his master required. In that Shakespearean play, “As You Like It,” Adam risks his own life in saving his young master’s. He makes himself destitute by spending all that he has to secure Orlando’s safety. Yet he expects no bonus or gold watch or elaborate party. Serving is what he is called to do. It’s as simple and profound as that.
When the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith, He assures them that His faithful servants are likewise His beloved friends. The day comes when Jesus says to His followers at the Last Supper, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends ...” (Jn 15:15). While we are yet His servants, we may not always understand why we are called to sacrifice our own security. Maybe we are called to care for an elderly parent or a special-needs child ... Maybe we are called to give up our free time to be advocates for the unborn during Respect Life Month … or perhaps we need to find ways to assist the homeless or to be peacemakers in a divided world. Yet even with faith the size of a mustard seed, we trust in God to make our service fruitful. Happiness comes to those who serve without seeking it.
More than a couple of years ago now, in 1993, I remember reading a story about 91-year old Bill Knight who greeted American troops arriving at the Bangor, Maine International Airport until shortly before his death on Christmas Day, 1993. Bill Knight was a World War II veteran. Sometimes, he got up in the middle of the night … just to be there for those who were returning from active duty. He sought no reward. But I remember reading that Bill Knight did say, “It puts a little meaning back in my life.”
Today, I hope all of us will renew our desire, as members of the body of Christ, to be His faithful servants on whom He relies to do His works of selfless compassion and to do so with the justice that underlies all lasting peace. Remember ... Jesus gave Himself on the cross for each one of us and each time we gather around this table, He gives Himself to us once again under the form of bread and wine. We need to give ourselves to Him without demanding to know that we are indeed profitable servants. I think the old Nike slogan said it best.“Just do it.”