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’” (Lk17:10).
This ending verse from today’s Gospel account from Luke flies in the face of the ideals of fame and honor that many in our culture believe we ought to be striving for. After all, everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame, don’t they?
The point Jesus is making with his disciples is one of perspective. We need to constantly remember that God is the Creator and we are his created beings. Our life is completely dependent on him and whether we like the analogy or the reality that we are servants, that is not only how we were created, but what will, in the end, bring us the most meaning and fulfillment, serving God and one another without hesitation.
This is no dictatorial or tyrannical power play by God through his crown prince Jesus. Jesus himself consistently served his Father and would do so in the fullness of giving himself on the Cross. This is best summarized by Paul in his Letter to the Philippians, when he echoes one of the most ancient Christian hymns: “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.”
Jesus, the divine Son of God, entered into our human condition because he was serving the will of his Father. We are to do the same. God is the director of his epic drama and each of us has a part to play. Our faith grows as we empty ourselves from our own grasping nature of seeking control, of being in charge, and seeking to be the director.
One of the reasons many of us have trouble with this type of imagery and language is because we consistently see so much abuse of power for selfish gain. This is not God’s goal. He does not need us, he is fully self-sufficient without our worship or service. It is we who need him and through the opening of our mind and heart to his direction, by acting on every word that comes from him, we do not become diminished we expand and become more!
We truly become ourselves, we are fully alive, when we resist living in the past or projecting ourselves into the future. Fr. Robert E. Kennedy states this point well: “Our true self is given to us moment by moment. We live, we find ourselves, to the extent that moment by moment we turn to the will of God.” This is the beating heart of our faith, to place ourselves in a posture to hear the will of God, and act upon it in our willingness to serve him. In doing so, we lose our life, so to find it.
Photo: Ceiling from the Cathedral of St Mary of the Assumption, where I went to Mass for the Saturday Vigil last night while visiting our daughter Mia in San Francisco. A good picture to meditate on!
Kennedy, Robert E. Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit. Continuum International, NY: 2004.