Twenty Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 17:5-10

In the opening of his Rule St Benedict makes an invitation to anyone who is serious about seeking God: ‘Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?‘ To those who respond he says:

‘See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life. Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way with the Gospel for our guide.’ Benedict’s invitation is Gospel based and very clear. He intends to establish a ‘school of the Lord’s Service’.

These past weeks our Gospel texts have provided us with ‘a school of Discipleship’. With words and images our minds have been focussed on the cost of following Christ in suffering and glory. The opening verses of this chapter give the disciples a series of warnings: don’t be the cause of someone else’s fall, deal with wrongdoing and forgive, forgive several times a day if it is needed. The disciples’ response to these warnings is to ask Jesus to increase their faith. Jesus replies with yet another challenging statement:

‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.

This increase of faith is vital if the disciples are to fulfill the demands of discipleship. The scene that Jesus now paints is of uncompromising commitment. The servant has both outdoor and indoor work. All of the work requires energy and attention to detail. In my own monastic life, I remember the feeling of a morning spent harvesting spinach (you had to do this squatting) and then coming inside to be the server at lunch. That thirty minutes on my feet serving lunch could feel like the last straw and there were still several hours of the day left. Then there was the grim reality of this being nothing out of the ordinary. It was just what was expected.

The servant’s work of shepherding, ploughing and waiting at table is taken up by the Early Church as literally and metaphorically describing the work of the apostles. Some commentators suggest that there may have been some tension between the ‘indoor and the outdoor’. Fairly quickly the apostles designate deacons to wait on tables.

There is no way round it: discipleship asks everything we have.

In this past week where Has Christ called you to shepherd, plough and wait on tables.?