I suggest that you read, if you have time, the first four verses of Chapter 17. What follows today may make more sense. In chapter 16, particularly verses 16:14-31, we had Jesus responding to the taunts of the Pharisees. Jesus tackles them for being, in essence, hypocrites for they did not keep the moral law that they taught but loved money and acted more like Dives. Jesus now turns his attention to us (firstly addressing the disciples and then the apostles).
- not cause one of the little ones to stumble
- learn to forgive, even seven times a day
- come to a fuller understanding of what faith is, and exercise it
- and, in particular, learn that doing what is expected of disciples does not mean that our names will go up in lights!
Initially this teaching is a little deflating, certainly demanding, and a bit unexpected.
Slaves/Servants are expected to do their duty; so too the children of light.
As the TV commercial says “but that is not all. There is more.”
Let’s take first things first. Most of us will not be asked to be shot by a firing squad for our faith this coming week. We are called, in a sense, to face the slow martyrdom of doing our daily chores, caring for our loved ones, not giving scandal, offering alms to the poor, forgiving the faults of others and asking for forgiveness for our own. All hard and consistent work. Such work will have a huge effect in our local communities. The time will come to ask for ‘more faith’. If we have been faithful with our duties, then that mulberry tree might just be “uprooted and planted in the sea”.
In the meantime, let us value the gift that has been entrusted to us. It is precious!
Let us do with it that which we can and do it with pride and with joy.