Today’s gospel passage begins with the disciples petitioning Jesus. “Increase our faith!” They’re saying this with their hands thrown up in the air in despair. Jesus had just told them that they must always forgive a brother who has wronged them. He put a number on it – seven times – even seven times in one day! The rabbis taught that a person would be perfect if they forgave a brother three times. Jesus doubled that number and added another one for good measure. He was serious about it. The ability to forgive was essential for his disciples. He followed up by noting a common practice.
When the master of the house sees his slaves coming in from the fields at the end of the day, he doesn’t ask them to sit at his table and have dinner with him. He expects them to begin making his dinner and then serving him and his family. They will eat later.
Jesus’ example understandably rubs us the wrong way. But his message behind the example needs to be heard, and should challenge us just as it challenged his disciples that day. We, too, should be throwing our hands up in the air crying, “Lord, increase our faith!”
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Work. Work. Work.
Jesus is warning all of us that being a Christian is hard work. Living the life of a disciple is a challenge every day. There’s a teaching, there’s a parable meant for every single one of us. That’s why we read them over and over again every time we celebrate our Eucharist. Every time we hear them, we hear something new. We’re challenged in a new way.
I spend a good deal of time writing these reflections every week. My working to discover the deeper meaning of an event or a teaching isn’t a work of scholarly research. It’s my audience with Jesus. Sometimes he consoles me. Sometimes he heals me. Sometimes he challenges my faith. I struggle with him and his message before I share anything with you.
“When you have done all you were commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
This last line of the gospel passage isn’t meant to be a guilt trip. It’s a plea not to give up. Every single day of our lives offer an opportunity to grow. We won’t be finished growing until we hear him say, “Come, you blessed of my Father; inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”