Sunday: After Work, More Work … Then Miracles

This Sunday’s Gospel passage (the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C) is a bit of a “problem text.”

Most “problem texts” come down to cultural differences, like when Jesus tells Mary, “Woman, what is this to me?” at Cana. It sounds as if he is mad and a little disrespectful — until we learn that this was a common way to refer to women respectfully at the time.

Today’s passage is like that. “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’?” asks Jesus. “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’?”

We might be tempted to answer his question, “No. I would let the servant have something to eat right away.”

The explanation to this problem text is that his culture had a different understanding of servant and master’s roles than ours does. But you needn’t study Hebrew culture to see what Jesus is talking about.

When I sat down to write this, I had just finished an unusually busy day at the office. When I came home, I had to prepare for confirmation class at the parish that night, while feeding the baby. After confirmation class, it was time to prepare for a college class the next day.

April finished a very busy day of home-schooling some students and chauffeuring others to the Benedictine high school in town. At the end of it, she too had to prepare for confirmation class, while preparing kids for soccer and taking them to practice. When that was all done, she had corrections to make from today and preparations to make for tomorrow.

The truth is: We have all experienced what Jesus describes in today’s Gospel. After we do a lot of work, we find … a lot more work. No medals for preparing for class or taking kids to soccer — or certificates of appreciation for fixing sinks after long days at the office or accolades for paying the bills on time.

Jesus wants us to have that same attitude toward our faith.

When we do something right in the spiritual life, we have the tendency to feel like we ought to get some kind of round of applause or something.

But Jesus doesn’t give medals to us for saying our prayers or going to Mass or even for going the extra mile for someone else. That is all Gospel 101. It is the basic behavior expected of Christians.

But it is precisely in this daily, routine way that the first words of today’s Gospel are fulfilled: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,” you can move mulberry trees or mountains. In other words, if you believe enough to do what you should – literal miracles will happen: Miracles of faith, forgiveness, and transformation.

Just as working hard at the office and working hard at home has a transformative effect over the years on yourself and your children, commitment to your faith that is complete and constant also transforms you over time. Little by little, it moves mountains.


Photo: kelsey.p, Flickr Creative Commons.

America’s Media Summit is Nov. 18 and 19 at Benedictine College. Join Raymond Arroyo, John Allen Jr. and others to ask “After the Election: What Next for Catholics?” More information.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.