27th Sunday Year C
October 6, 2013
INTEGRITY, JUSTICE, TRUST & SERVICE
The word “trust” makes it very often once again in the news. We speak a lot about “public trust” associated with “public office” and we are disappointed when there is wanton betrayal of public trust.
Oftentimes though, we see failings in others, but we do not see the same failings in ourselves.
But first, let us go to the readings … Habakkuk was impatient. He wanted quick results. He had been praying for help from above, but “God wouldn’t listen” – well, at least, not as quickly as he would have wanted Him to. God plastered him down with a statement point blank: “The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.”
Which would you rather be … be rash or be just? … be quick and show results right off, or be slow but sure? … be imprudent and make so many mistakes, or be circumspect and effective in the long run?
I know of one whom Paul trusted so much even in his youth … Timothy. He reminds Timothy today, not necessarily to be youthful and brash, but be prudent and fruitful in his testimony to the Lord. He tells him not to rush, but to “stir into flame the gift of God” that he had received through Paul.
I don’t know how many of you have had the experience of starting a bonfire, or even cooking on a wooden stove. You can’t afford to be brash, and you definitely can’t be in a rush. You need to do it ever so gradually, starting with small kindlings and then gradually adding bigger pieces of wood until you have a big enough flame to cook food, or make your favorite roast.
One needs to have patience. One ought to have focus. And one has to have determination to do what one has been told to do, or what one has set out by himself to do.
I have heard in my lifetime some very heartwarming stories of trust and fidelity that paid off handsomely in the end. The first was way back when I was a young student in Rome. One of the early OFWs, a teacher with a Master’s Degree back in the Philippines, had been working for so long with an Italian family of stature. She was rewarded generously for being trustworthy, for serving the family so faithfully, and so patiently.
The second happened only quite recently in the States. A Filipina caregiver, who served her master with dedication and love, was rewarded with a big inheritance, far bigger than anyone can reasonably dream of.
In both cases, and in some more that I do not speak of here, the issue was trust, fidelity, humility, selfless service, and personal dedication in the spirit of charity, all virtues that speak of what Pope emeritus Benedict XVI called “gratuitousness.”
This is what the servant of today’s gospel was expected to show. No servant, according to the Lord, would be so brash as to sit with his or her master at table after a long hard day’s work. That servant would still be expected to be up and about, and be at the beck and call of his or her master.
But there is some additional detail that the parable tosses in for good measure … When that faithful and trustworthy servant is lauded for his or her work, that same spirit of gratuitousness would most likely lead him or her to say: “I am no more than an unprofitable servant; I have simply done what I was obliged to do.”
The opposite of gratuitousness is that all-too-common malady of our postmodern times – the huge sense of entitlement on the part of so many spoiled brats in society. To have a sense of entitlement would mean to follow the “taking form” or the violent form, instead of the “giving form.”
St. Francis of Assisi gave it all away, including those which were rightfully his as an heir to his father’s fortune. His sense of self-entitlement was replaced by the spirit of gratuitousness. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta kept nothing for herself and gave everything away for the least, the last, the lowest and the lost.
We live in a world saturated now by narcissists. We have a veritable narcissism epidemic all over the world. No wonder there is so much corruption and dishonesty in and out of government. But there is no corresponding acceptance and admission. People now, perhaps including ourselves, instead of “hearing God’s voice,” have actually “hardened our hearts.”
Today is as good a day as any other for us to be reminded: “the rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.”