In today’s gospel, Jesus compares the disciples to servants who ought to do as they are commanded to do. Perhaps for us today, who typically don’t have servants in our homes, it helps to change up the analogy. I thought back to a bunch of jobs that I had over the summers when I was in high school: working as a receptionist at my dad’s dental office, drying off cars at a local carwash, and working the drive through window at a McDonald’s. Some of this work was very tiring when it got busy; for months, I dreamed all my dreams with a McDonald’s drive through window as the frame. The work ethic there was to get food to customers as quickly as possible, which made for a lot of non-stop, fast work serving others. Although I am grateful that this is not my job long term, I appreciate the value of having had these kinds of jobs. They required self-discipline to work hard even when it was not pleasant work, and doing the job simply because, well, that was my job. The customers had to be served and I did my best to make it a positive experience for them.
Jesus says something similar to his friends: have some backbone and do the work that is required —even when it is not easy or consoling. Jesus’ comparison to “unprofitable servants” comes in response to his friends’ pleas to grant them an increase in faith. His reply to their request suggests that although we enjoy the kinds of consolations that accompany faith and might sometimes want more of the “feeling” of faith, there is an element of faith that is also about just “doing the work” and letting self-discipline take us through challenges or dry moments.
Our work and relationships inevitably have ups and downs. When we are consoled, the joy and happiness of being “connected” to our work or relationships makes it easy. But when consolation is not present, Jesus suggests that we ought to persevere and let a different dimension of faith carry us: not the consolations and feelings but rather our trust that God will provide and make our efforts come to fruition. This is the message of the first reading from Habbukuk: “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”
We can imagine how many ways this can apply to our lives. Maybe someone is working for immigration reform or care for the environment and the obstacles to change seem to be immense. Maybe it is a relationship that has not quite worked out all the difficulties and it is not entirely clear how they will be worked out. But Jesus reassures us, this is okay. It is good to ask for an increase in faith. And one way to do “our part” in having more faith is to make things simple: to place ourselves in God’s hands and trust that God’s vision for us and our world will be fulfilled in due time. Meanwhile, we can do our part in cooperating with God’s desires, and take up the day to day work that God asks for us to do.