Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel for the Twenty-seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, October 2, 2022. The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection October 2 2022. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Who among you would say to your servant, who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
There are just five verses between the gospel from last week, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and the text for this week. In those five verses Jesus addresses the disciples about the inevitability of sin. Despite sin’s inevitability, its consequences are still tragic, especially if it leads others to sin. Therefore, Jesus urges the disciples to confront the sinner so that he can turn away from the sin. But the one who falls should be forgiven, seven times a day if need be. Following these teachings Jesus addresses the disciples with the passage that is the gospel text for this week.
The gospel contains two of Jesus’ instructions. The first is about faith that might be better understood as loyalty. The apostles asked for an increase in faith. Jesus’ response moves the request from the quantity to the quality of faith. The seed of the mustard tree is very small, but the mulberry tree has an extensive root system that makes it very difficult to transplant.
The second teaching is a parable centered on the role of a single house servant as a model for discipleship. Family servants were common in the time of Jesus. Even a poor family would have one servant who performed multiple tasks, working in the fields, caring for the house, and preparing meals. At the time of Jesus, the poorest families would give one or two of their children to another family as a servant so that the child might have sufficient food.
In order for us to hear Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in a way that will be meaningful, the reader may need to be aware of our cultural biases. Most of us would struggle to think of a world where parents would give their children to another as servants so that they would have sufficient food. Equally troubling may be the thought of a master who would require a person who has labored in fields all day to then come in and cook and serve a meal. As disturbing as these thoughts may be, these conditions existed in the time of Jesus, as they do in different parts of our world today.
The task for this week is to both listen to our response in reaction to the situation presented in the gospel and respond in a way that is appropriate for our situation, and at the same time listen to the parable with the ears and hearts of the disciples who are asking Jesus to help them with their apparent lack of faith. We also need to hear Jesus’ response as truly trying to respond to them and their need.
- Are you aware of a time in your life when your faith seemed abundant? Are you also aware of a time when your faith seemed thin or maybe not-existent?
- To what would you compare your faith? What would be a good symbol?
- What are the things you considered as you examined your faith? (personal prayer/relationship, adherence to beliefs, faithful living of commitments, living justly with others and creation, and/or any others?)
- If you look at your faith in terms of an expression of loyalty, what happens within you?
- Do you ever find you get quantity confused with quality in your relationships?
- What do you think Jesus was trying to teach the disciples about their role as disciples?
- Can you take some time to talk with God about your desire to be a faithful servant, or your awareness of God who desires in Jesus to manifest Godself and his faithful servant?