Although I will be in Dublin for the weekend and probably won't have to preach I'm still going to post my thoughts on next weekend's gospel. Hopefully it may be of use to some overworked priest somewhere or just anyone in need of some meditative material.
The gospel for next Sunday is from Luke (17:5–10):
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? 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.’”
Which of us could not do with more faith. Cyril of Alexandria tells us that the Apostles are asking the Lord to strengthen and increase the faith they already have. Faith, he says, partly depends on us and partly on God. We must put all our effort into maintaining our confidence in God and God will confirm and aid our efforts. To have faith then is to enter into an ever deeper relationship with God; to surrender more and more of our self to Him; to give ourselves away to Him so as to receive Him in return. To have this faith is to be able to do even what seems impossible (uprooting the Mulberry tree), to go beyond our own reach and powers.
Then Jesus puts in the condition of this relationship. The vast majority of us are unaccustomed to servants. We are served by our fellow citizens but that is their job and we are not their employers. The word Jesus uses means a slave. We do not have slaves. We might unwittingly buy goods that have been manufactured by people who are, for all intents and purposes, slaves but it is illegal and unacceptable to our society and culture. Yet they exist still in many parts of the world and they existed in great numbers in Jesus' day. His hearers knew exactly what He was saying. We do not belong to ourselves. We are bought and paid for. There are multiple ways for us to serve the Lord and while we are in this mortal life we must serve Him who hase served us by dying for us on the Cross. He put on the form of a slave and if we are His disciples we too must slave for Him, slave for our neighbour's welfare and salvation. Slavery is His image for the total self-gift that He asks of us. He asks us to obey Him as He does the Father. He asks us to give totally because He gives totally. He asks us to have faith so as to uproot the mulberry bush of our pride and self-seeking and cast it away. So let us remember the some of St. Francis' last words:
Let us begin again for up until now we have done nothing.