Commentary on the Gospel of
Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
How many times at work have we gone the extra mile, covered for someone while they ran a not-so-important errand, or stayed late to finish the urgent but not really necessary request from the boss, and then not been thanked for it? How many times at home have we had dinner waiting on the table when our spouse came home, gassed up our child’s car, or did the grocery shopping, and then not been thanked for it?
It hurts to not be recognized for doing a good deed, for we all know that when we trip up, it will be noticed, and we will hear about it. Loud and clear.
We all enjoy a pat on the back for a job well done and if any of Jesus’ disciples felt this way, their egos took a big blow when Jesus told them the parable of the Master and the Servant. The final verses of today’s Gospel must have really stung: Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’
What was Jesus really saying to his disciples and to us? Was the message that all we do for God does not require God to thank or reward us? That God is the Master and we are the Servants? Most definitely, yes!
The parable makes crystal clear that God is not obligated to save us, no matter how many good deeds we do, how many times we forgive those who wrong us, or how much we contribute to the church or to homeless shelters. Rather, it is imperative we keep front and center that our relationship with God is one of service performed with devotion, gratitude and love, and not as the price of a ticket to earn our admission into heaven.
As Christians, we recognize that the very act of serving God gives our lives meaning and hope. We are bound to obedience out of our love, duty and loyalty to God and in gratitude for sending his son, who by dying on the cross, saved us. Serving God does not mean God owes us; what God bestows upon us is a gift of grace. Salvation is a gift from above, not something we can earn on earth through our corporal acts of mercy.
We are so blessed that our Lord is a compassionate, loving and kind God, and the Bible is full of promises that our rewards are great in heaven. With smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts, let’s continue to soldier on and love and serve our God and Master; because that is what Christians do.