How to Live as Servants Awaiting Christ the Blessed Hope, 32nd Tuesday (II), November 11, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Tuesday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Martin of Tours
November 11, 2014
Ti 2:1-8.11-14, Ps 37, Lk 17:7-10

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today, Jesus teaches us about a fundamental Christian attitude. Yesterday we pondered his words about setting good example rather than scandal and of forgiving continuously when someone repents, which led his apostles to say, “Lord, increase our faith!” After Jesus described the power of faith the size of a mustard seed, he talks about the perseverance, humility and gratitude of faith, describing the situation of a servant who has just come in from the fields. He would never expect his boss to have him sit down at table and serve him as some type of reward for doing what he was supposed to do, but rather to continue serving. “So should it be with you,” Jesus draws the lesson. “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'” Jesus wants us to go on continuing to work in his vineyard, to set good Christian example, to be merciful like he is merciful, to live by faith. There’s no point at which we should say, “I’ve forgiven enough, now I can stop.” There’s no time when we should say, “I set a good example earlier. Now I can do my own thing.” Jesus wants us to persevere with gratitude for the gift of faith and like him continue serving others with love as he loved and served us to the end.
  • In today’s first reading, St. Paul continues describing the traits that we should have in order to set that good Christian example. He talks about various classes of people — senior men, senior women, young people, even Titus himself — but while, at certain times of life certain virtues may be more important, no matter how young we are, all of these virtues are Christian virtues to which we should aspire “so that the word of God may not be discredited” and so that critics “will be put to shame without anything bad to say about us.”
    • Say what is consistent with sound doctrine — We all have a duty to speak in a way that’s consistent with the truth that God has revealed. If we teach contrary to the truth — whether we consciously or unconsciously know that it contradicts what God has taught through revelation and through the Church — we can draw people to follow us down a wrong path. We need to know sound doctrine and have the love for God and for others to pass it on.
    • Temperate — This means “sober” in terms of food and drink. With the passing of time, we should learn what our limits are, what are true pleasures, and how not to over-indulge. Drunk or gluttonous seniors are a sad scandal to all.
    • Dignified — This means that one is “serious” and aware of living in the light of eternity, one who, as St. Leo the Great reminded us yesterday, remembers one’s Christian dignity and lives in according with that intrinsic worth.
    • Self-controlled — The word means “prudent,” someone that has things under control, who doesn’t give in to flights of anger or passion. This is the one thing St. Paul says young people need to have, to know their limits and follow them.
    • Sound in faith, love and endurance — We must be healthy in our total self-entrustment to God and what he teaches, in sacrificing ourselves for God and others, and for perseverance until the end.
    • Reverent — We must learn how to revere God and the things of God, especially others. To be reverent means to be conscious that one is dealing with sacred things.
    • Not slanderers — Gossip is a truly ugly scandal. Pope Francis says that it is slaying our brother Abel with our tongue.
    • Not addicted to drink — How sad it is to see someone who is addicted to anyone or anything other than God! An elderly lady addicted to drink is a sign that not even with the passage of years has one learned basic human lessons.
    • Teaching what is good — We can’t keep goodness to ourselves. Bonum diffusivum sui, the good spreads itself. We need to teach what is good.
    • Chaste — We must be capable of unselfish love.
    • Good homemakers — Women in particular must know the art of filling a house with the warmth and love so as to make a home, a skill that parishes likewise need.
    • Control themselves — If one has no self-discipline, then one can’t discipline — or make disciples of — others.
    • Model of good deeds — To know what they should do, others should be able to copy our actions, which is the most powerful teaching of all.
    • Integrity in teaching, dignity and sound speech — We need to have an integrity to follow what we teach on behalf of Christ, to carry ourselves as a Christian and to speak as a Christian ought.
    • Reject godless ways and earthly desires — We have to make a choice for Christ which means that we likewise have to make a firm choice to separate ourselves from the things that are not of God and from spiritual worldliness. To believe in God we have to reject Satan, all his evil works and all his empty promises.
    • Justly — We need to give God and others what they deserve, which is whole-hearted loving service until the end.
    • Devoutly — Devout means “de voto,” or from an vow or commitment that we’ve made to God and to others. It points to something that comes from the heart with love.
  • These are the standard Christian virtues that set a good, rather than a scandalous, example for others. It might sound like a long list, as if St. Paul is proposing to us an unmeetable standard. But after summoning us to that style of life, he reminds us of God’s help to meet it, saying, “the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age.” God gives us what we need. St. Paul also describes our motivation, something that’s important for us to grasp during this month of November as we continue to ponder the last things. Jesus had said that the prudent and faithful steward is the one who acts in the supposed absence of the Master as he would in the Master’s presence rather than thinking that the Master is long delayed in returning and beginning to get drunk, abuse and take advantage of others. St. Paul says that God gives us the grace to “await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.” We use those words in every Mass after the Our Father as we prepare to receive that Blessed Hope, Jesus, on the altar, who gives himself to us to free us from living contrary to his law, cleanses us to live purely as his dwelling place, and makes us eager to do good together with him. Even though we’re useless servants and even though we should have no expectation whatsoever to be served, that’s in fact what Jesus does at every Mass, cleansing and feeding us with himself as he did the apostles in the Upper Room, and preparing us for the eternal banquet where he seeks to serve and feed us out of love forever.
  • One saint who lived as a humble servant of the Lord until the end, one who lived with the virtues St. Paul describes, was St. Martin of Tours. He was the son of a pagan army officer and brought into the Roman army as a teenager. Eventually he was stationed to Amiens in the north of France which is where his celebrated conversion took place. He was on patrol duty one frigid night when he saw a shivering, lightly clad man begging for alms near the city gate. Martin was shocked that no one was giving this man assistance. He had no money on him; all he had was his horse, his armor and his own clothes. But he dismounted, took out his Roman lance, and cut his military cappa in two, covering the beggar with half and wearing the other half himself. Later that night, Jesus appeared to him in a dream dressed in the half of the cape given to the beggar, teaching Martin that whenever he cared for, whenever he served, anyone else, he was caring for Christ himself. He was a catechumen at this point but immediately sought and receive baptism. Soon after he left the army, he put himself under the charge of St. Hilary of Poitiers and began a life of prayer as a hermit, where he lived for more than a decade. In 371, the Christians of Tours demanded him to be ordained their bishop. He served them while he continued to serve the Lord in prayer. He fought very hard against the paganism of the terrority and against heresies in Christianity. He traveled all throughout his enormous diocese by good, on a donkey or by boat. He never stopped serving. Even when it was clear that his ascetical life, age and hard work were catching up with him, he kept going on. There was  controversy in the parish of Candes because of disputes among priests and he wanted to go. Those around him tried to prevent his going, saying he would likely die on the way. He turned to the Lord and said, “Lord, if your people still need me, I am ready for the task. Your will be done.” He went and reconciled the priests and people. But he informed them that he was about to die. As he lay on his death bed, they wanted to turn him around to prevent bedsores, but he said, “Allow me to look to heaven rather than at earth, so that my spirit may set on the right course when the time comes for me to go on my journey to the Lord.” He spurned the devil whom he could see standing there trying to tempt him to the last and entrusted himself to the embrace of Abraham. He was an example of sound and consistent teaching, of temperate, self-controlled dignity, of solid faith, love and endurance, of reverence, sobriety, chastity, integrity, justice and devotion. He was the Lord’s servant until the very end and proved himself something far different from “useless,” and now he rejoices together with the Lord at the eternal banquet. We ask him to pray for us that we might follow his example on earth so as to share his reward.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ti 2:1-8, 11-14

Beloved:
You must say what is consistent with sound doctrine,
namely, that older men should be temperate, dignified,
self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and endurance.
Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior,
not slanderers, not addicted to drink,
teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women
to love their husbands and children,
to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers,
under the control of their husbands,
so that the word of God may not be discredited.Urge the younger men, similarly, to control themselves,
showing yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect,
with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech
that cannot be criticized,
so that the opponent will be put to shame
without anything bad to say about us.For the grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of the great God
and of our savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.

Responsorial Psalm ps 37:3-4, 18 and 23, 27 and 29

R. (39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
By the LORD are the steps of a man made firm,
and he approves his way.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
The just shall possess the land
and dwell in it forever.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Gospel lk 17:7-10

Jesus said to the Apostles:
“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.’”