Truly Becoming God’s Servant
Tuesday November 8, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Wisdom 2:23-3:9) Gospel (St. Luke 17:7-10)
Our Lord makes clear in the Gospel reading today just exactly where we stand with things, that is, we are called to be servants of God and as servants of God we are to do what we were commanded to do. Now the Lord has commanded us that we are to follow His commandments. His commandment is to love, and that means to pour ourselves out, to give without reserve. That is not an easy task for us, even though it is the very purpose for which we were created. But as we heard in the first reading today, even though we were created according to the very nature of God, death came into this world through the envy of Satan. Since the devil has brought death into this world, and tragically our first parents decided that rather than serving God at that moment they would serve Satan, we are all affected by it. Now each one of us has to be tested to see whether or not we are going to be faithful to God, whether or not we are going to be true servants of the Lord, or whether we are going to be servants of the devil.
We understand, of course, that if we are going to be servants of Satan it does not mean that we bow down and worship him; all it means is that we have to be focused on ourselves or on the world. As long as we are not focused on God, we ultimately are serving the devil because everything that is not God is going to lead us to death, and we are choosing death. After all, if we are not loving, what are we doing? Love leads to life. Selfishness leads to death. And so as we heard in the first reading with regard to the souls of the just, it says, God tried them and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace, He proved them, and as sacrificial offerings He took them to Himself. That is the nature of the way things are going to be. God is going to test us, not because He does not know whether or not we will be faithful; it is because we do not. In our weakness, we think we are strong. In our pride, we think we are humble. Consequently, when we are put to the test, we find out that we are not very strong and we find out that we are not very humble most often. Then we are tested again, again, again, and again. Eventually a little, tiny bit of humility begins to eke in and we begin to actually acknowledge that we are weak and that without God we can do nothing. As the testing continues, finally we will actually completely rely on the Lord. Then we will do what we are commanded to do. We will love.
The beautiful thing, of course, about God’s command is that this is what is going to bring us the greatest joy. This will bring the fulfillment we all desire. On the one hand, we will rejoice abundantly in the fact that we are finally serving the Lord and we are finally loving. Yet, on the other hand, we look at it and we simply can say, “This is what I was commanded to do. This is what I was created to do.” So as joyful as we will be in the fact that we are able to finally do what we are supposed to do, there is nothing we can take credit in, certainly nothing we can brag about, because it is the very purpose of our existence. For most of us, all we can do is look at it and say, “And how many years did it take for me to do the very thing that I even exist to do, the very thing I was created to do?” How can we take any pride in it? It is what we should have been doing from day one.
That, once again, is the choice that is placed before us. Are we willing to serve the Lord, or are we going to serve ourselves? The choice is that primordial one: it is God or it is the devil; it is life or it is death; it is love or it is selfishness. It is a choice we have to make every minute of every day. We know how many times we choose ourselves, we know how often we fail to serve the Lord, and so we know that we have some work to do. Ultimately, when we can finally get to the point of saying that we are useless servants who have done no more than what we were commanded to do, that will be a glorious day. In the meantime, we cannot even fully say that we are servants of the Lord because we serve ourselves rather than Him. At this point, all we can say is we are trying to be servants of the Lord, we want to be servants of the Lord, but we have not even gotten that far yet. There is no room for pride. If we are willing to acknowledge the truth humbly then we will take a quantum leap forward in that path toward truly being the useless servant of the Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.