Lectio Divina: Luke 17:7-10
1) Opening prayer
God of power and mercy,
protect us from all harm.
Give us freedom of spirit
and health in mind and body
to do Your work on earth.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 17:7-10
Jesus said, "Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, ‘Come and have your meal at once?’ Would he not be more likely to say, ‘Get my supper ready. Fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink. You yourself can eat and drink afterwards’? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say ‘We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty.’”
• The Gospel today narrates a parable which is found only in Luke’s Gospel and has no parallel in the other Gospels. The parable teaches that our life has to be characterized by an attitude of service. It begins with three questions which are ultimately answered by Jesus.
• Luke 17:7-9: The three questions of Jesus. It asks three questions taken from daily life, and therefore the listeners have to think about each one from their own experience to give a response according to that experience. In the first question, Jesus asks “which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, ‘Come and have your meal at once?” All will answer “No!” The second question asks would he not be more likely to say “Get my supper ready. Fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink. You yourself can eat and drink afterwards?” All will answer: “Yes! Certainly!” Finally, the third question inquires “must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told?” All will answer “No!” The way in which Jesus asks the questions orientates people to his way of thinking. He wants us to be servants to one another.
• Luke 17:10: The response of Jesus. At the end Jesus draws a conclusion which was already implicit in the questions: “So with you, when you have done all you have been told to do, say ‘We are useless servants, we have done no more than our duty”. This applies to all Christians, to serve the Master and to avoid pride in doing so. Jesus has told us what to do, and we must do it with the humility of one who sees himself as a useless servant, expecting to have our reward after doing the Master’s work. He has given us an example of service when He said: “The Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45). Service is a theme which Luke likes. Service represents the form in which the poor in the time of Jesus, the anawim, were waiting for the Messiah. Not like a royal and glorious Messiah, high priest or judge, but rather as the Servant of Yahweh, announced by Isaiah (Isa 42:1-9). Mary, the Mother of Jesus, says to the angel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word!” (Lk 1:38). In Nazareth, Jesus presents Himself as the Servant described by Isaiah (Lk 4:18-19 and Isa 61:1-2). In Baptism and in the Transfiguration, He was confirmed by the Father who quotes the words addressed by God to the Servant (Lk 3: 22; 9:35 and Isa 42:1). Jesus tells His followers, “Anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Mt 20:27). Useless servants! This is the definition of the Christian. Paul speaks about this to the members of the community of Corinth when he writes, “I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God gave the growth. In this, neither the planter nor the waterer counts for anything, only God who gave growth” (1Cor 3:6-7). Paul and Apollos are nothing, only simple instruments. The only one who counts is God. He alone! (1Cor 3:7).
• To serve and to be served. Here in this text, the servant serves the master and not the master the servant. But in the other text of Jesus the contrary is said: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. In truth, I tell you, he will do up his belt, sit them down at table and wait on them” (Lk 12:37). In this text, the master serves the servant and not the servant the master. In the first text, Jesus spoke in the present. In the second text, Jesus is speaking in the future. This contrast is simply another way of saying that the one who is ready to lose his life out of love for Jesus and the Gospel will find it (Mt 10:39; 16:25). Anyone who serves God in this present life will be served by God in the future life!
4) Personal questions
• How do I define my life?
• Do I ask myself the three questions that Jesus asks? Do I live like a useless servant?
5) Concluding prayer
The lives of the just are in Yahweh's care.
Their birthright will endure forever.
Yahweh guides a strong man's steps and keeps them firm
and takes pleasure in him. (Ps 37:18, 23)