12 November 2013. Tuesday of the Thirty Second Week
Wis 2:22ff. The dead may seem to be extinct, but their souls are in peace.
Lk 17:7ff. Seeing ourselves as servants who have done no more than our duty.
First Reading: Wisdom 2:23-3:9
God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.
Gospel: Luke 17:7-10
“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”
Destined for eternal life
A belief articulated late in the Old Testament era is that God formed human beings to be imperishable, made in the image of the divine nature. Each of us, regardless of nationality or race, gender or wealth, is created to image God’s eternal nature. In the end, heaven will so surpass our expectations and all our endeavours, that we will exclaim, “We are useless servants, who have done no more than our duty.”
We begin life created to the divine image; we end it by discovering the fullness of that image in Jesus Christ, when he returns in glory. In between, we trudge or trot along the human path of life. The human life on planet earth, somehow or other in God’s mysterious ways, allows us to grow into the divine image implanted at the start. Wisdom, the latest Old Testament book, offers this understanding of life. It praises those who have paid for their ideals with their lives, As gold in the furnace, God tested them, and took them himself. Life provides the testing-place, the furnace that can refine the divine image in us. Similarly we read in Hebrews, “after being chastened a little, they shall be greatly blessed.”
In today’s parable Jesus seems to accept customs which are not acceptable today; but he is simply drawing his parable from the realities of life about him. He refers to slavery and to what a master can expect from the slave. For work well done the master would not necessarily show gratitude, because the slave was just doing his job. Jesus did not endorse slavery; rather he prepared the way for its abolition by emphasizing the dignity of everyone. But he insists that the eternity God has in store for us will far surpass our human merits. It is a comforting thought that God blesses us much more than we can ever deserve.