Monday, November 07, 2011

Unprofitable Servant

November 8, 2011

Tuesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made them. But by the envy of the Devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it. (Wisdom 2:23-34)

Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do." (Luke 17:9-10)


Hear me, God, when I am broken-hearted, when I am crushed, when I am obstinate, when I am confused, when I am lost. Remember me as your servant, unprofitable but hopeful in your love your mercy and your right judgment. Remember me as your child forever. Amen.


Without putting words into Jesus’ mouth, I would suggest that he would want us to admit to our servant hood and our obligations toward God’s will with love rather than resentment. After all, we are not servants or slaves in the sense of Roman occupied Palestine. We are indeed servants, sent to be God’s hands, ears and eyes in the world, building God’s Kingdom. And we are indeed slaves to the desire in our souls to be united with God before all else. But we are more. We are God’s beloved children as well as servants and slaves. God loves before and through all obligations.

The story Jesus tells really strikes me. As a working mother with two young children and a husband who worked hard for us, coming home to make dinner was always a difficult time of day when my obligations seemed much more onerous than rewarding. It was tough being loving when the kids whom I was serving were cranky and hungry. Of course, I had all the amenities to prepare food quickly unlike the servant in the Gospel. But let me tell you, loving joy was not often in my heart.

Was I a bad servant? Was I a bad mother? No, just far from perfect. It’s our choices which count. These choices include fulfilling our obligations and also turning again and again to God for the grace that will soften our hearts. The reading in Wisdom goes on to say: As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. … Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect. (Wisdom 3:6,9)


Being “told” what to do still rankles me. But being told what to do when it is in the spirit of love of God above all else and my neighbor as myself goes a long way to help me get over myself. Not meeting the needs of my family is not loving but neither is imposing my resentment on them while preparing dinner. Ignoring the needs of the poor is not loving but neither is making donations all the while decrying the lazy good for nothings who take my money. Responding lovingly to someone who has wronged you is difficult while making her/him “pay” for the transgressions through bitterness is not acting in the image of (God’s) own nature.

In what ways are we God’s unprofitable servant? In what ways could we be a better servant?