"We are unprofitable servants who have done what we were oblighted to do" (Luke 17:10).
The annual meeting of the U.S Catholic bishops occasions reflection on their role as leaders of the church. Today's Gospel reading comes as a timely reminder that they are servants.
Jesus addressed a short parable to his apostles about just what servants can expect when they have completed their duties. Rather than imagine that the Master will honor them and reward them for their service, the servant continues to serve and then says, "I am only doing what I am supposed to be doing."
While this image seems almost uncharacteristic of Jesus, who was always serving others, including his Apostles, the point of the story is clear. Being a disciple or an Apostle is itself an honor and a reward. To be called by Jesus is to enter an intimate relationship with a master who always serves. St. Paul, one of the greatest of the Apostles, understood this well. Even after recounting his many sacrifices and sufferings for the Gospel, he expresses his gratitude for the privilege of his conversion and call to be with Christ. He can do no other, for his apostleship is his identity. He must preach and serve in order to be himself and to fulfill his purpose in this world.
When we think that our service is overwhelming us, Jesus renews his call to us even in our weariness and feelings of being burdened. "Come to me," he says, "Get in the harness with me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden is light." Where else would be rather be than with him? What else could we be doing with our time and energy that is more meaningful than sharing his redemptive work?