Initially I found today’s gospel to be somewhat difficult to understand. Left to my own interpretation, I would tend to think of the master as being harsh and lacking in gratitude for what his servant has done for him. Fortunately this was the same Gospel we read last month on the 27th Sunday in Ordinary time, and I learned a different interpretation from Fr. Gillick’s reflection and our pastor’s homily. The point is not that the master is ungrateful.
The lesson Jesus is trying to teach is that it is not enough to just meet our obligations. The focus I was missing was on the last verse of this passage “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.’” It can be tempting to pat ourselves on the back or even look for acknowledgement from others when we have met our obligations within a very secular society. Just meeting our obligations is nothing extraordinary; it is the extra-ordinary that we should strive for in our service to God and others.
The obligations of being a Catholic seemed to be predominant as I was growing up. These obligations included abstinence from meat on Fridays, Mass on Sundays and holy days, fast from midnight until the reception of the Eucharist, fasting in Lent, etc. Since the Second Vatican Council, the obligations are fewer and there is an expectation that we each will make our own personal choices for sacrifices and service that express our love for God. Superficially it seems that things have become more lax, but in reality it has become more challenging because we have to take more personal responsibility. We each have to discern what it is that God is calling us to do to serve him and those around us. It is not an easy task sometimes because he does not lay it out in black and white, and sometimes it is frightening that he may call us to do something beyond our comfort zone.
Today is the feast of St Frances Cabrini, the first United States citizen to be canonized. St Frances was an Italian who came to the US in 1889. Her life was a striking example of someone who went far beyond the obligations of the Church in her ministry to the poor immigrants from her native land. She followed God’s call throughout her life to ease the suffering of others, always trusting that the necessary material goods would be supplied one way or another. By the time of her death, she had founded over 60 schools, hospitals and orphanages, primarily to serve the needs of Italian immigrants.
My prayer today is that I have the resolve to go beyond the obligations and seek to serve others and the Lord in all that I do. I pray that, like St. Frances Cabrini, I have the courage to discern what it is that the Lord wants of me and trust that he will provide the means.
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