November 12, 2019 (Tuesday) - The Christian as Slave - A Reflection on Luke 17:7-10
I spoke about being slaves in a reflection recently, and quite a few people took offense. Given the negative connotations surrounding slavery, it is understandable. However, if we are to become true disciples of Christ, we have to understand that humble servanthood is one of discipleship’s most important requirements. And Jesus spared no efforts to teach and demonstrate how important this was.
On one occasion when the apostles argued about who was the greatest among them, as though it was some title to be acquired, Jesus hauled them up saying, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44). There is the “S” word. And then he added: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 13:45).
To further emphasize his point, on the day of the Last Supper, the Son of God dropped to his knees before Sinful Man and washed his feet. If I was one of the apostles present there, I would have been shocked into humility, but even as it is, I am moved enough to realize that if God can humble himself like this, then I definitely can. Although I need to remind myself of this every now and then.
So when Jesus says what he says in today’s passage, it is advice that we all need to take seriously. And when we do obey him, we need to do it without the expectation of gratitude. We find this also shocking, because we expect acknowledgement and appreciation for everything we do. Don’t we? Can you imagine working very hard for an event in your church and nobody so much as says a “thank you”?
Over the past several years, I have noticed that people who lend a hand in ministries do it to fulfill their own agendas; not because they particularly want to grow God’s kingdom. They attach themselves to individuals or groups, and expect a pat on the back every time they do anything. When this is not forthcoming, they leave in a huff to what they imagine are better pastures. They might really want to pay attention to today’s passage.
And those of us who do it for the right reasons, let us say as Jesus said. “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” And although Jesus tells us not to expect gratitude, I can assure you that our God is very grateful!
Here we are with the “S” word again: slave. Although we don’t like it, humble servanthood is one of discipleship’s most important requirements. #Reflectonthis
Reflection (Luke 17:7-10): The Christian as Slave
November 11, 2019 (Monday) - Tempters, Beware! - A Reflection on Luke 17:1-6 [BE VERY SLOW]
I have the choice of talking about three things today. One, the fate of tempters. Two, the need to forgive. Three, the desire for increased faith. What should I talk about? Actually, for me it is pretty obvious. A few weeks ago, I was tired and decided to watch something on TV. I have a Netflix subscription so I tuned in to one of the TV series, and a few minutes into the first episode I was exposed to nudity and explicit sex.
Now, I am not a prude, and I won’t pretend I have not seen things like this before, but what upset me was that it was on everyday TV where anybody, including little children, could see it and be exposed to things they really shouldn’t be exposed to at all. Especially not at an impressionable age. Sure, they are warnings about coarse or crude language, sexual content, and violence, but come on, is a little child going to understand these warnings?
And, yes, there are parental controls that one can set on these channels, but how many parents actually do this? And even if one does, how does one control what a child watches in somebody else’s house? I find it very sad that sex and violence is shown so freely now. And that it is often gratuitous, shown even when there is no need for it, just to draw audiences in. Now, I believe adults can decide to do whatever they want, but children should be protected.
And there are consequences. Forget about the temporal consequence of doing damage to the child’s psyche, we bring about some pretty serious retribution. Listen to what Jesus says again: “It would be better if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” So what do we do? Well, you know what Jesus said about cutting off our hands and gouging out our eyes if they cause us to sin (see Matthew 18:8-9).
Well, can you imagine the steps we would need to take to protect others from temptation, especially kids. Eliminate the sources of temptation. Throw out your TV if necessary. And if you really can’t do without it, cancel your subscriptions to any channels that show unholy — there’s no other word for it — content. And the channels might wisen up if they see they are losing revenue by showing these things, instead of gaining it as they currently are).
And we might also protect them from a fate worse than being thrown into the sea with millstones around their necks.
When the things we do might cause others — especially children — to stumble, we really need to be careful. We can set good examples. We can also set bad ones. #Reflectonthis
Reflection (Luke 17:1-6): Tempters, Beware!
1) Opening prayer
God of power and mercy,
protect us from all harm.
Give us freedom of spirit
and health in mind and body
to do Your work on earth.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 17:7-10
Jesus said, "Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, ‘Come and have your meal at once?’ Would he not be more likely to say, ‘Get my supper ready. Fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink. You yourself can eat and drink afterwards’? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say ‘We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty.’”
• The Gospel today narrates a parable which is found only in Luke’s Gospel and has no parallel in the other Gospels. The parable teaches that our life has to be characterized by an attitude of service. It begins with three questions which are ultimately answered by Jesus.
• Luke 17:7-9: The three questions of Jesus. It asks three questions taken from daily life, and therefore the listeners have to think about each one from their own experience to give a response according to that experience. In the first question, Jesus asks “which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, ‘Come and have your meal at once?” All will answer “No!” The second question asks would he not be more likely to say “Get my supper ready. Fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink. You yourself can eat and drink afterwards?” All will answer: “Yes! Certainly!” Finally, the third question inquires “must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told?” All will answer “No!” The way in which Jesus asks the questions orientates people to his way of thinking. He wants us to be servants to one another.
• Luke 17:10: The response of Jesus. At the end Jesus draws a conclusion which was already implicit in the questions: “So with you, when you have done all you have been told to do, say ‘We are useless servants, we have done no more than our duty”. This applies to all Christians, to serve the Master and to avoid pride in doing so. Jesus has told us what to do, and we must do it with the humility of one who sees himself as a useless servant, expecting to have our reward after doing the Master’s work. He has given us an example of service when He said: “The Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45). Service is a theme which Luke likes. Service represents the form in which the poor in the time of Jesus, the anawim, were waiting for the Messiah. Not like a royal and glorious Messiah, high priest or judge, but rather as the Servant of Yahweh, announced by Isaiah (Isa 42:1-9). Mary, the Mother of Jesus, says to the angel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word!” (Lk 1:38). In Nazareth, Jesus presents Himself as the Servant described by Isaiah (Lk 4:18-19 and Isa 61:1-2). In Baptism and in the Transfiguration, He was confirmed by the Father who quotes the words addressed by God to the Servant (Lk 3: 22; 9:35 and Isa 42:1). Jesus tells His followers, “Anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Mt 20:27). Useless servants! This is the definition of the Christian. Paul speaks about this to the members of the community of Corinth when he writes, “I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God gave the growth. In this, neither the planter nor the waterer counts for anything, only God who gave growth” (1Cor 3:6-7). Paul and Apollos are nothing, only simple instruments. The only one who counts is God. He alone! (1Cor 3:7).
• To serve and to be served. Here in this text, the servant serves the master and not the master the servant. But in the other text of Jesus the contrary is said: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. In truth, I tell you, he will do up his belt, sit them down at table and wait on them” (Lk 12:37). In this text, the master serves the servant and not the servant the master. In the first text, Jesus spoke in the present. In the second text, Jesus is speaking in the future. This contrast is simply another way of saying that the one who is ready to lose his life out of love for Jesus and the Gospel will find it (Mt 10:39; 16:25). Anyone who serves God in this present life will be served by God in the future life!
4) Personal questions
• How do I define my life?
• Do I ask myself the three questions that Jesus asks? Do I live like a useless servant?
5) Concluding prayer
The lives of the just are in Yahweh's care.
Their birthright will endure forever.
Yahweh guides a strong man's steps and keeps them firm
and takes pleasure in him. (Ps 37:18, 23)