Gospels such as today's are the reason that priests have no hair. I was scratching my head all week trying to make sense out of these reasons. What is Jesus getting at in this Gospel?
I had some insight into the Gospel yesterday, and two questions came forward: what is our expectation for God? and what does God expect from us?
I want to start with the latter of these two questions: what does God expect from us? The answer, as presented in this Gospel account is simply that we remember that we are not the ones in charge, that's God's job! We are to remain as humble servants, we are to remain faithful to God's commands and to His instructions in our lives.
The problem is often with our expectations from God, that is where we tend to get in trouble. We can often expect God to reward us for our faithfulness, perhaps with a better house or car (I'm still waiting for the car!), perhaps a lack of suffering, or maybe we wager with God for a cure: "God, if I go to Mass these four weeks, You will cure my grandmother from Cancer!"
In a lot of little ways, we can put these Quid pro Quo arguments to God: "If I am faithful to this, You must do this for me!
This approach is deadly in the spiritual life, and I think this is one of the things that Jesus is warning us in this Gospel.
We must remember that we are not the ones in charge, God is! Part of faith is accepting this, recognizing that we are just servants, and not in control.
There might be a danger if we leave it at this point, however. We might be tempted to a passivity, waiting for God to give us instruction, waiting for God tell us clearly what exactly He wants us to do. The 2nd reading we heard today helps balance out this temptation.
In this reading, St. Paul is instructing Timothy in the ways to be a bishop. But it is not just a snapshot into the life of the early church, it is also an instruction for all of us to take up our call.
Notice the strong language Paul uses: "Stir into flame the gift of God" and "God did not give us a gift of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control."
Dynamic words calling us all into action, calling us to live our faith out in the world, as servants, each with a unique role to play in the life of the Church.
If we go back to that servant image from earlier, it is important to recognize that in the time period that the Gospels were written, the life of a household was managed by servants. There was the Major Domo, who was in charge of the affairs of the house, but there was also the cook, the housekeeper, even the porter who sat by the door, ran errands, or introduce guests who came to visit the owner of the estate.
Something to keep in mind is that if even one of these roles ceased to happen, the whole household suffered as a result.
So, returning to the question posed at the beginning: what does God expect from us? He expects us to be good and faithful servants, to help in building up His Kingdom, and to give back to Him what He has given to us.
If we accomplish this, my hope is that we all may hear those comforting words of Jesus at our own particular judgement: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
As an aside, I know now that this was Respect Life Sunday, but one of the dangers of not being in a parochial assignment is that these things slip off of your radar screen.