27th Sunday of the Year (c) 2016
Did you notice how, in the today’s gospel, Jesus took slavery for granted? He doesn’t get upset at the situation of a man owning a slave, who works for him in the field then in the home prepares his meals. He seems to take it all for granted. Nowadays we would be appalled by this. Was Jesus wrong? Or was he, as the Incarnation implies, a man of his time, first century Palestine, when slavery was acceptable?
Does anything else surprise us about the gospel today? What about the last part, and those words, ‘I’m just doing my duty’. I shouldn’t, therefore, be thanked. Last week I was at a parish where almost everyone was charismatic…hands in the air at the Gloria and other songs of praise. The congregation applauded me at the end of my homily. Now, in all my 34 years as a priest I have never been applauded before for preaching a homily. I don’t expect to be applauded. I don’t preach to win applause; I do it because it is my duty.
We Christians were brought up to be good. Our mothers taught us to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. And if someone does us a favour, or a good turn, we must remember to thank them. And if I do someone a good turn then I expect the person I helped to say ‘thank you’. It makes me feel good to do a good turn for someone, but also it makes me annoyed when someone doesn’t say thank you. But, you know the good christian must be prepared to do good for others without getting thanked. That will be a real test of our motivation. Do I do good to others because it makes me feel good, or do I do it for God’s sake, because I am a christian and that is what I am supposed to do, thanks or not?
Poor people won’t always thank you. Elderly people won’t always thank you. Do you get angry and say, even under your breath, at such times, you ungrateful so and so? Or, do you just shrug it off as one of life’s experiences? Have you ever had the experience of being rewarded ten times over for doing something that cost you very little? Then have you had the opposite experience: of going out of your way to help someone, but get little or no thanks? This is a real test of our faith: why do I do good to others: to earn a reward, or, because it is my duty as a Christian?
What I do for others, the good I do, is my duty; as a Christian I am called to imitate my Master, Jesus Christ. He did good for others, without expecting a reward. And we should do the same. Sometimes, for one reason or another, some people just don’t know how to say thank you. How sad is that. I used to give out food to the homeless in London. Not all of them said thank you, but most did. It doesn’t matter what they say. In the end, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I do my duty, which is to help other people.