I can remember in my younger days making deals with God or at least trying to make deals with God. Looking back now it seems humorous and embarrassing. Usually I would end up promising God that I would stop something sinful if He gave me what I was asking for. So basically I was promising to stop doing something that I shouldn't be doing anyway and expecting to be rewarded for it. It's like saying, "God, I promise to stop taking money out of the safe at work if you will just let me win the lottery."
I also used the opposite approach. I would promise to do something that I should have been doing anyway if God would only "give in" and let me have what I wanted. It was like this, "Dear God, I promise to go to Mass every Sunday, if you will find me a new job." Or as one of my sons might put it, "Dad, I'll stop taking candy without asking if you will give me candy."
Our dealings with God can often be like these examples. In today's Gospel Jesus clears things up rather nicely although it stings the pride a bit in practice. Here He tells me that I know deep in my heart what it is that I should be doing. I know how I should be living. When I am doing all of these things I should not expect any kind of rest or reward. There is rest and reward but that comes much later, at the very end of my service.
Today's Gospel may sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to our modern ears. This message is directly opposed to the culture in which we have been reared. The world tells us to seek recognition for our efforts, even if it was something we were supposed to do anyway.
Our society, with it's twisted sense of fairness, reads this Gospel passage with arrogance and places it aside. We might hear our society say, "This must have been what it was like back then, cruel, heartless, and demanding but no so in our day. This servant should have rights too. The fair thing is for the master to serve the servant after his hard day of labor in the field." And thus the message is lost.
The Lord is telling us that we must seek to serve and not count the cost or look for a reward. He is not placing an unrealistic demand upon us. He himself showed us what He meant by these words. "...[He] rose from supper, laid aside his garments and girded himself with a towel." He took the form of a servant saying, "I have come not to be served but to serve." If we are to be like Him, we must serve and not hunt for laurels. The Lord has done so much for us, how can we say anything but, "We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty."
The Gospel today is a great antidote to pride. By simply praying this Scripture often, I can keep the correct perspective on my place in the Kingdom, "I am an unworthy servant, I have only done what was my duty." If I can honestly say that when I meet Our Lord, I will be doing great!
FROM THE SAINTS - "The path of Humility takes you everywhere...but above all to Heaven." - Saint Josemaria Escriva in Furrow # 282
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How to get better at prayer.
- Set a prayer appointment - Set a time on your calendar each day to meet and speak with God.
- Slowly increase your prayer time. - Don't jump in with an hour right from the get-go. Build up your "tolerance" so to speak.
- Commit - to praying and slowly increasing your prayer time for 30 days. Mark off the days on your calendar. If you miss a day, jump right back in, don't give up.
- Pray - praying is talking to God, it's spending time with your attention focused on Him. I enjoy spending time with my children regardless of their level of development. God is the same way. Spend time praying as best you can. Use formal prayers if you want or simply speak in conversation. Don't forget to listen
- Journal - Our newly revised 4 Simple Steps to Better Scripture Meditations: Guide, Workbook, and Journal walks you through 4 easy steps that will help you go deeper in your prayer life. It includes 31 days of workbook and journal pages too!
- Read other good books about how to pray better - Prayer Primer, Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer, Time for God, The Spiritual Life: A Comprehensive Guide to Catholics Seeking Salvation.