Reflection on the Sculpture
Several countries have monuments to the Unknown Soldier. Our sculpture of today, is called Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat… whether it was intended as a serious tribute, or a humorous, satirical piece, the artist never clarified this and so it is over to you to decide what your take is on the piece.
It depicts a walking man holding a briefcase, walking firmly to work. A large block of Icelandic volcanic basalt sits where you would expect to see a torso and head. As I mentioned, monuments to unknown soldiers are common, but as Iceland does not have its own army, maybe this sculpture is a tribute to the civilians who serve their country …
The ‘serving’ which Jesus is referring to is altogether different though. Jesus is inviting us to fully appreciate the human freedom we have been given, and through that to have the humility to serve other people. By doing so, we serve God.
Why would we do that? Because Jesus served us first! The question I always wondered though with today’s reading is: If God does not need anything, then why does He command us to serve him? Probably, mainly so that through us serving Him and the people around us, we display to one another God’s greatness, kindness, and love. Serving builds our faith and helps us to love and trust Him even more. Serving enhances therefore our joy we hold for Him.
This sense of joy is crucial when serving. God would not want us to serve Him against our will, or without joy, or even grumbling. No, He wants us to take joy in serving Him. God loves a cheerful server… because joyful giving reflects the true values of Christ …!
Luke 17: 5-10
5 “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ 6 The Lord replied, ‘If you had 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. 7 Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table?’ 8 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?’ 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 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!’”.
2 Timothy 1: 6-8. 13-14
“Beloved: I remind you, to fan into flame the gift of God that you have through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us”.
The Second Reading of the coming Sunday ties in beautifully with this Gospel we contemplate today.
The Gospel begins with the Disciples approaching Jesus with a seemingly reasonable request: “Lord! Increase our faith!” It is an understandable request given the sort of things Jesus has been teaching: “Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Forgive even when it is not deserved. Give without expecting anything in return. Be ready to take up your cross ...”
However, Jesus responds to the Disciple’s request with a touch of irritation. He tells them: If they had faith as small of a mustard seed, they could command a mulberry tree to uproot itself and replant in the sea … and it would obey. He then proceeds to ask them whether a servant would be so cavalier as to demand a meal with his master, or special praise for doing his basic household duties.
Now, this may strike us as a little odd because we know Jesus was not in the habit of speaking unkindly about slaves or people of low status.
Jesus was normally turning hierarchies and power structures on their head. Why does He now resort to conventional social structures to make this point to the Disciples?
We have to keep in mind that, throughout the Gospels Jesus reserves his harshest criticisms for the proud and saves his most biting satire for the folks who need to be brought down a peg. From the beginning, his ministry was about lifting up the humble and humbling the proud, of challenging those in authority and giving voice to the marginalized. It is safe to assume that there must have been an element of pride or entitlement at work in the Disciple’s request to warrant this sort of response.
Maybe Jesus was gently, playfully poking fun at the ongoing preoccupation of the Disciples with flashy signs and wonders as a measure of true faith. They had been asking for an upgrade in supernatural powers, at one point suggesting it sure would be nice to be able to call down fire from heaven every time someone turned them away from their home. Jesus responded with similar agitation to that request.
But the signs and wonders performed by Jesus and described in the Gospels always had a point. They were always constructive. They … Healed, liberated, multiplied, fed, blessed, restored, comforted … .
They pointed to the mission of Jesus and the purpose of the Kingdom He inaugurated.
And today these stories remind us of our own call to … Heal, liberate, multiply, feed, bless, restore, comfort … .
It is helpful here to contrast this bizarre idea of uprooting a mulberry tree with the work of the servant who tends sheep, works the land, plants seeds, makes dinner. Maybe Jesus was telling the Disciples that if they have enough faith to be faithful, then that is enough.
Faith, after all, is a gift. And we do not have any business telling God we do not have enough, when God always gives us enough to be faithful. God always gives us enough to do something useful, to “make it work”.
Maybe the mistake the Disciples make is not so much in asking for more faith, but in thinking they do not have enough, in thinking God’s gift to them was insufficient.
How easy it is to think we do not have enough! These guys were in the very presence of Jesus and still they wanted more!
The Disciples ask for an increase of faith. Jesus casts doubt on their possession of any faith. Maybe they are too self-assured because they are accompanying him to Jerusalem. He describes the power that comes through faith, using an exaggerated image for a memorable effect. The example of the treatment of a servant probably goes with Jesus’ demurral about the faith of the Apostles.
Servants of the Lord must beware of thinking that they deserve or can earn a special reward because of their service. Jesus may be alluding also to an attitude among Jewish Religious Leaders that correct observance deserves God’s reward. They act as if God owes them salvation because of their good works. The listeners would easily understand the example of master and servant relations. If good work is expected of the servant as an ordinary part of his duties, why should the Disciples of Jesus think faithful service is not a basic requirement of following the master?
What Disciples do need more than anything else is a deepening faith in the God of Jesus Christ, who can and will rescue them from opposition and other destructive forces.
Verses 5 and 6 tell us that faith is the greatest force in the world.
Concerning faith, we should remember that God is not concerned with how much we have, but with whether we have truly placed it in him.
Jesus tells us that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea. What is being communicated here is something simple: faith is power.
When our lives are aligned to God we become conduits of enormous power. What are the attachments that block the divine power from flowing through us?: Wealth, pleasure, honour, power.
Verses 7-10 tells us that we can never put God in our debt and can never have any claim on him. When we have done our best, we have done only our duty: and a man who has done his duty has done only what, in any every event, he could be compelled to do.
We are not so unlike the Disciples, are we? How often we tell ourselves: “If I only had more faith, I could … Do something important; Do something impressive; I would never struggle with doubt; I would not be so scared; I would finally be appreciated; I would finally know I am right; It would finally all make sense ... .
In the Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy, Paul encourages Timothy to expand on the spiritual gifts he has been given. While some interpreters have explained the “gift of God” as a spiritual gift, the New Testament most often uses this phrase as a reference to salvation.
In the Gospel of John Jesus spoke of salvation as the “gift of God”. On the two other occasions Paul uses the phrase we find: “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” and “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Timothy was to “fan into flame” his salvation. Based on the reference to laying of hands. Paul likely has in mind both the salvation of Timothy and his calling to serve others. Paul commands him to serve as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
“Love what Jesus loved on the cross, and despise what He despised” said Saint Thomas Aquinas. That is the key to a spiritually successful life, and to the unleashing of divine power.
“Father God, open my eyes, not so much to see the world more clearly, but to see You. Open my eyes to see You working around me and in me. Nothing happens by accident.
You orchestrate every day of my life.
Allow me to see your hand in the mundane and the fantastic.
Help me to trust in what I cannot see
and believe in Your invisible presence”.
“The Apostles said to the Lord: ‘Increase our faith!’
Father, even the Disciples that walked with Jesus
needed to strengthen their faith.
Jesus told them if their faith was only the size of a mustard seed,
they could uproot trees and crumble mountains.
Lord, I need more faith like the Disciples.
Increase my faith and make me a mover of mountains.
Grow my belief in You alone so that I would be strong in the Lord
and ready to battle against the doubts planted by the enemy.
Lord, increase my faith!”
Why is it important to have faith in God?
· Only God can increase our faith. As our faith grows, all other graces increase.
Since faith in God and His Word is the foundation of the Christian life, when
our faith grows, it benefits every area of our lives. More faith means we are
more like Jesus.
· Jesus is using an example from everyday life to communicate to his Disciples
that his way of leading is totally different from the leadership of the world.
Worldly leaders can use their influence unjustly and feel entitled to rewards
and privileges simply because of their position. The way of Jesus suggests that
serving others is a privilege in itself and no reward is necessary.
How does worship and prayer increase your faith?
· One of the most powerful things we can do as a Christian is worship and pray.
It connects us with God and builds our relationship with Him while impacting
our life. Prayer and Worship have the power to shift situations, mindsets, and
atmospheres. And not just ours, but those who are around you.
Reflect on the teaching of Jesus.
· How do I find it?
· Does it resonate with me or do I find it hard to apply?
· When I am serving others, do I seek rewards?
I ask Jesus to teach me how to serve.
Luke 18: 9-12: “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income’”. John 4:10: “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water’”. Romans 6:23  Ephesians 2: 8