Reading (Titus 2:1-8, 11-14) Gospel (St. Luke 17:7-10)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that our attitude in dealing with our own selves in relationship to God is to recognize ourselves as unprofitable servants who have done nothing more than what we were obliged to do. Now all that most of us can really do is pray for the day that we can actually say we have done nothing more than what we were obliged to do. Most of us are so far from even dreaming of doing what we are obliged to do that we cannot even begin to think of ourselves in any other way. But when we get to the point of even being able to do what we are commanded by Our Lord to do, then we would be able to say we are unprofitable servants today, we cannot even say that. So the saints would be able to say that they are unprofitable servants who do no more than what they are obliged to do. For the rest of us, well, the latter part cannot be tacked on as yet.
And so the question is, what is it that we are obliged to do? Saint Paul lays things out rather nicely. He tells us we have to live our lives in a way that is consistent with sound doctrine. We have to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith and endurance, and so on. We have to be living our lives as good examples to people around us. We have to be humble. We have to be charitable. We have to be pouring ourselves out. And he tells us that the reason for this can be found in the Incarnation. The little passage at the end of the reading today is about Christmas; it is about the Nativity of Our Lord. He says, The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training all to reject godless ways and worldly desires, to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await our blessed hope, the coming in glory of God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and he goes on from there.
And so it is to be able to look at the Incarnation and the humanity of Jesus Christ and at the life of Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself and became a servant, a slave; and for us then to be able to say that we are just unprofitable servants. We really are not saying anything negative about ourselves. In our day, people would say, Oh, you just lack self esteem, and all this other nonsense. But it is to be able to say what Jesus said: that He did only what He was commanded by His Father, that He did nothing unless He heard it first from His Father, that He was the servant of all. He became our servant and yet He is the One who created us and redeemed us. Yet, He became the servant to each one of us which is really good for our humility when we stop to think about that one.
So for our own selves, then, we need to look at the example of Christ. We need to look at this little, tiny Baby who was born of a human woman, who was born in a cave, who has come into this world for the purpose of being obedient to His Father and of giving His life for us, who lived in such a way that He was above reproach. He teaches us how we are to live and that we are to find ourselves to be servants of God and servants of one another. When we can finally come to the point of actually doing what God requires of us that is, when we can get to the point of becoming saints then we can truly say that we are unprofitable servants. Until then, we need to get rid of even that amount of arrogance and we need to recognize that we have not even approached being an unprofitable servant yet; but rather, all we can say is that we are selfish, disobedient slaves who are not doing what we are supposed to do. Therefore, we need to keep working at it, to find the example of Jesus, and to become truly the dignified individual who is living as an unprofitable servant of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.