I’d like you to fantasize this scene: it’s Thanksgiving Day. The mother of the family spends the day preparing the thanksgiving meal. She cooks the turkey, makes homemade pies and cookies; she does the vegetables, sets the tables and then calls the family to supper. She serves the meal and enjoys the company of the family. At the end of the meal the rest of the family gets up from the table and heads to the rec room to watch Monday night football. She stands there and shakes her head in disbelief and says, “isn’t anyone going to say ‘thank you’?” The family turns from watching TV and says, “well sure, thanks, great meal, but isn’t that what you are supposed to do as wife and mother?” In other words, you have done only what you ought to have done.
Don’t even try to imagine the atomic explosion that hit that house after such a question, isn’t that what you are supposed to do?
The story Jesus tells in the gospel and especially the last sentence we heard seems awfully harsh. “When you have done all you were ordered to do, say “we are worthless slaves and we have done only what we ought to have done.” Thanks a lot.
At the beginning of the gospel we hear the apostles asking for an increase of faith – a greater strength to trust Jesus and His teaching. They were stunned by Jesus’ teaching about the dangers of wealth and the blessedness of the poor. His demand that He come first in their lives, before mother, father, brothers or sisters was quite severe. This was all new to them. They wondered if they could handle it all. So they ask,”Lord increase our faith.” In other words give us strength we need to trust you and the things to which you call us.
We’ve been taught that faith is a gift, something we can’t earn, something freely given. This gift gives us the ability to trust the truth that we are loved by God, trust the truth that Jesus loved us with such intensity that He was willing to die for us, live the truth that we are brothers and sisters to all who come into our lives.
We are not entitled to our faith, we are entrusted with it and so we are expected to accept and live the deepest truths of our faith; that we are created of love, for love and are to return to that love. As the church prays, ‘love is our origin and love is our constant calling, love is our fulfillment in heaven.’ In living our lives as Christian people, struggling to live the great commandment, “love on another as I have loved you” we are doing only what we ought to do.
This gift of faith is given us so that we who believe may become more like the person in whom we believe. This gift is given so that we who believe may ‘put on Christ’ in the way we live our lives, in all its dimensions.
In the story Jesus tells He would identify Himself with the servant, not the master. In His passion and death He did what He ought to have done, He kept His commitment to do the will of the Father, no matter what the cost. “I have come to do Your will.”
Take for example the person who is gifted, entrusted with the ability to play a musical instrument. They will practice and practice to develop that gift and in doing so they will have done only what they ought to have done with their gift. To say that is not belittling their efforts but it is recognizing the fact that they have appreciated the gift entrusted to them. In doing so they have given glory to the gracious God Who so gifted them. This can be said of any of the gifts and talents a person may have.
We’ve been entrusted with our Christian faith, a gift that requires of us we seek to become more like the person in whom we believe. This is a lifetime struggle and there are times when that struggle becomes quite intense, when we suffer the death of one we love, when we are hit with serious illness, when we lose a job, when we are hit with a situation that leaves us spinning and we question the very existence of God and beg from the bottom of our hearts, ‘increase our faith’.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass, we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we treasure the gift of faith entrusted to us, a gift to which we were not entitled. May each of us seek to become more like the person in whom we believe and accept the reality that in all our efforts to live a Christian life, we are doing only what we ought to do.