Once upon a time, a man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots someone down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts, “Excuse me, can you help me? I don’t know where I am.” The man below says, “You are in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 30 feet above this field. You are between 40 and 42 degrees North latitude, and between 58 and 60 degrees West longitude.” “You must be an engineer,” says the balloonist. “I am,” replies the one below.” “How did you know?” “Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost.” The one below says, “You must be a manager.” “I am,” replies the balloonist, “but how did you know?” “Well,” he says, “you don’t know where you are, or where you are going. You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault.”
The message of Christ is plain and simple: Just do your job!
And it is difficult to do our job as Christians when there is so much death in the news. Nothing changes in human history. A long time ago the prophet Habakkuk says the same thing: “How long, O Lord?” “How much more violence do I have to witness? And btw, where are you, O Lord? Do you not see this?” A few weeks ago at his general audience at St. Peter’s, Pope Francis says, So many Christians in the world are suffering. Am I indifferent to that, or does it affect me like it’s a member of the family? Does it touch my heart, or doesn’t it really affect me, [to know that] so many brothers and sisters in the family are giving their lives for Jesus Christ? “According to the International Society for Human Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that in the last decade, an average of 100,000 Christians have died each year in what the center calls a “situation of witness,” meaning for motives related to their faith. Although some experts regard that estimate as inflated, it works out to an average of 11 Christians killed each hour throughout the past decade.” Our brothers and sisters in Asia, Africa and South America do their jobs and some lose their lives for keeping the faith. In twenty-first century America people do not lose their lives for the faith. They leave the faith because of other peoples’ lives. According to Pope Francis, the universal Church is one big “house of communion.” When a fellow Christian suffers for the faith in Africa, then we suffer in America. When someone leaves the faith in America, something in all of us diminishes.
Despite the pain and persecution, the message of Christ is simple and plain: Do your job!
The scripture scholar, the late Sister Verna Holyhead calls today’s Gospel the “parable of the slave on duty.” Remember that Jesus addresses the Twelve Apostles, not all of the seventy-two disciples. The Twelve ask for an increase of faith. They probably expect “quantity,” Sister Verna says, instead of “quality.” And because of this misunderstanding they are in for a surprise because Jesus ends up saying, “Just do your job.” If we want to be great, put on an apron and serve the meal. If we want to be a good Christian leader, prepare the meal, serve well and clean up. Or, as St. Paul says, “Stir up like a pot God’s strength and bear your share of hardship for the Gospel.”
According to Sister Verna, a poignant example comes from the life of St. Thomas Aquinas. On December 6, 1273, St. Thomas stood at the altar in the chapel of St. Nicholas in Naples. As he celebrated the Eucharist, Thomas experienced an ecstatic experience that profoundly changed his life. Because of his vision, this great theologian stopped writing the third part of his Summa Theologica. When his secretary asked him why he was giving up his writing, the saint replied: “I can do no more. All that I have written seems to me like straw compared to what has been revealed to me.”
At this Eucharist, may God give you and me a vision! May it be God’s will to give us a vision worth writing down so that we can remind ourselves of God’s admonition: Do your job!
The Rev. Fr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
27th Sunday Ordinary Time