“When you have done all you have been commanded, say ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” The metaphor in the story could seem harsh to us today. A servant has worked hard all day, and rather than receiving a much-needed respite, the master commands an additional task. Jesus, however, is appearing to their sensibilities. This was a hierarchical society in which everyone had a place. His listeners would know this. No servant would presume a reward for good deeds.
It’s important to remember that we do have a place at God’s table. But we don’t “earn” it. Dining with the Lord at the heavenly wedding feast requires surrender. It requires deep faith in God and His promises. It also requires commitment. The kingdom takes work! There are fields to plow and initiatives to prepare. There are sheep to tend to and family to care for. There are people waiting for our yes to generous service. When we serve dinner at a homeless shelter, we are waiting on the table of Christ. When we visit an ill relative, we’re imitating the Good Samaritan. We’re visiting Jesus! We’re growing his kingdom of life and love.
The Gospel today reminds us to check our motives. Are we serving because we’re seeking a reward? Or because we have faith that this is who we’re meant to serve? That is, is this where we’re meant to be? The Gospel reminds us that this faith can do powerful things! “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.” But, ultimately, we’re not the ones doing the deeds. We’re not the ones “earning” the grace. Faith, and the good we do for others, is a gift.