Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr Dwight Longenecker

11/13/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Today's gospel is all about faithful service and reward. A servant shouldn't ask about a reward because he has only done what he was expected to do." Why should he get a reward for doing his duty? That wouldn't be worth much more than a plastic trophy or a paper crown.


By Fr Dwight Longenecker

Catholic Online (

11/13/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Year of Faith

GREENVILLE, SC (Catholic Online) - When I was in high school there was a trophy for the winning football team. It was a huge, solid brass cup with marble, silver and gold trim on a hardwood base.

This trophy would be held by the winning school for a whole year and their name would be engraved on a plaque on the trophy's base. The school trophy case was modest in size, but was full (or not full depending on the year) of similar sorts of trophies for the different sports.

Then trophies were worth something. They were solid and real, and to keep the trophies you had to win them every year or the the arch rivals would get them. The trophies were not only worth something. They meant something.
Not any more.

Our local high school can't build the trophy cases fast enough and big enough.

That's because the old type trophy out of solid and precious materials has been replaced with plastic trophies. That's right. All those trophies your children and grandchildren receive? They're plastic. The gold and silver trim is all plastic. They're plastic and they're everywhere.

The kids have to get a trophy for every little thing they do. Giving the plastic trophies out left, right and center has made the whole trophy giving exercise meaningless.

It's somehow suitable that the trophies are made of plastic because that's about what they're worth. They're not worth much more than the paper crown in the Christmas cracker or the cardboard crown you get at the local burger joint with your kiddie meal.

Today's gospel is all about faithful service and reward. Jesus asks his audience, "If you have a servant who has just finished working in the fields you don't ask him to come and sit down to dinner with you. It's his job to serve the table. He shouldn't ask about a reward because he has only done what he was expected to do."

Why should he get a reward for doing his duty? That wouldn't be worth much more than a plastic trophy or a paper crown.

Hold on a minute! This seems rather harsh doesn't it? Is Jesus really recommending that masters be so bossy and selfish and hard on their servants? Is this really just telling us to get on and do our duty and not think about rewards?

On one level maybe, but, as usual, there is more to it.

To fully understand the gospel we have to look at the context. Just before this story in Luke chapter 17 we have the story about faith being like a mustard seed which grows into a great tree.

Just before that the apostles said, "Lord increase our faith!"

In reply Jesus gives this illustration about a rather stern master who expects his servant to come in from the fields and immediately get supper ready and serve at the table.

Jesus is trying to show his disciples what faith really is. Faith is like a mustard seed. It's something tiny and humble and seemingly insignificant. It's something unremarkable.

Faith is not some razzmatazz religious experience.

Faith is not trying very, very hard to believe something which you know deep down probably isn't true. Faith is not simply signing up to a list of religious beliefs and moral principles. Instead, faith is living a certain kind of life.

The faithful servant in today's gospel is an illustration of faith.

Faith is a life lived, not just a set of doctrines believed.  Faith is as gritty and real as coming in from the fields and then tying on the apron and getting supper ready. Faith is a life of service and sacrifice. Faith is working out of a heart of love--not a desire for a plastic trophy or paper crown.

The story immediately following today's gospel sheds more light on this little story. It is the account of Jesus healing ten lepers--only one of which came back to thank him. Locked into this story are Jesus' words, "Your faith has made you well." There's another pointer to what real faith consists of--not only regular, humble, faithful service, but a heart full of gratitude.

The life of faith is therefore marked by faithful service and a heart that is so grateful that it serves out of love. This faithful service means that we serve without thought of reward. We're not serving the Lord to win a plastic trophy. We offer serve and make sacrifices simply out of a heart overflowing with love and gratitude.

Finally, let us stand this on it's head. Whenever we read the gospel we need to ask ourselves, "Where is Jesus in this story?" Yes, Jesus is the one telling the story, but the stories he tells and the incidents in the gospel always reveal Jesus in deeper and more mysterious ways. There are other connections we did not see at first.

The faithful servant--the one who comes in from the fields and then puts on his apron and serves is Jesus himself. Later in the gospel he refers to the "fields that are white and ready for harvest." He is the one who has been working in these fields harvesting souls.

Then it is no co-incidence that at the Last Supper Jesus himself gets up and puts on an apron to wash his disciples' feet. It is there that he says,  " For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

Jesus himself is the faithful servant, who comes in from the fields of his work and then serves at the table of sacrifice out of total, great and unconditional love for mankind. The only trophy he gets is a scepter that is a broken reed and the only crown he wears is the crown of thorns.

It is all well and good saying we should serve without any thought of reward, but that's impossible. We're not wired like that. It is only Jesus Christ who can do this, and it is only inasmuch as our lives are supernaturally conformed to his life that we can eventually begin to live a life of total service and sacrifice to others. Then we will know that the true and lasting reward is to live in union with the one who serves.

Until then we might have to put up with paper crowns and plastic trophies.

Fr Dwight Longenecker is the Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina.  His latest book, Catholicism Pure and Simple. Visit his blog and sign up for his free, weekly newsletter here.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


More Year of Faith

The Wedding Invitation of Jesus: We are Called to Live the Nuptial Mystery Watch

Image of There will be no giving or taking in marriage in the kingdom to come because the very purpose and meaning of marriage itself will be fulfilled. (See, e.g. Mk. 12:18-27) We will be living in the fullness of the Communion of Love with the Trinity. The symbol will give way to the eternal reality, the Sacrament will be fulfilled in the fullness of communion. All of human love will be completed in the Love which lasts forever.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

It is not accidental that the Bible, from beginning to the end, uses marriage as a metaphor and a symbol to reveal the plan of God for the whole human race.  Marriage was God's plan from the beginning as we see in the first book of Genesis. Throughout the Old ... continue reading

The Sower. The Seed. The Field. Understanding the Christian Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

"A sower went out to sow. And, as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for ... continue reading

Reflection on the Catholic Catechism: Understanding the Bible Watch

Image of

By Michael Terheyden

How we interpret the Bible is of immense importance! It directly affects what we believe about Christ, the Church, and our faith, but it is also related to many of the grave problems in our society and the world. Yet, despite the gravity of this situation, we have good ... continue reading

Christ the King, the Year of Faith and the Catholic Counterculture Watch

Image of On this Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Year of Faith inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI comes to a ceremonial end. However, in reality, it cannot and will not end, because Jesus Christ is King! The Year of Faith was only the beginning for those who choose to live the Life of Faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Church year offers to each one of us to consider the creature called time, receive it as a gift, and begin to really live our lives differently.  This is one of ... continue reading

The Bones of Peter, the Successor of Peter: Close of the Year of Faith Watch

Image of The bones of St. Peter the Apostle

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Sunday which marks both the end of the Church Year and the end of the Year of Faith, inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis greeted thousands of the faithful and presided over Holy Mass and the ... continue reading

Fr Randy Sly on Becoming a House of Prayer Watch

Image of Jesus drives the money changers from the temple. 

With hearts clear and focused on our Lord, we can follow the advice of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Everything starts with prayer. Love to pray--feel the need to pray often during the day and take the trouble to pray. If you want to pray better, you must pray more. The more you pray, the easier it becomes. Perfect prayer does not consist of many words but in the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus. (Fr. Randy Sly)

By Father Randy Sly

Becoming a House of Prayer is the best discipline we can take on. St. Ephraem of Syria states that Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy ... continue reading

Jesus Weeps and Offers the Path to Peace Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your ... continue reading

The Kingdom of God is Among You. What Did Jesus Mean? Watch

Image of The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well. Indeed, we call an apostolate every activity of the Mystical Body that aims to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth. (CCC#863)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In Jesus Christ, the Kingdom has been inaugurated. Upon his return it will be made complete and fully manifested in a new heaven and a new earth. We are members of the Body of Christ which makes it present here and now - as seed and sign for a world which is in labor. ... continue reading

Year of Faith: Bringing the Feast of the Presentation of Mary to Life Watch

Image of The Feast of the Presentation of Mary is celebrated in both the Eastern and Western Churches. It recalls the day in the life of the Jewish girl named Mary (Maryam) when her parents, Joachim and Anne, presented her to the Lord in the temple and dedicated her life to Him.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On this Feast of the Presentation of Mary, let us make the choice to surrender ourselves to the same Lord who Joachim and Ann honored when they presented their dear daughter in the temple. Their daughter, Mary, became the Second Eve. The New Creation was born through ... continue reading

WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Our Lady's Encouragement Watch

Image of

By Fr Samuel Medley, SOLT

I got off the subway at Termini station and went up to the busy streets of Rome.  I had to walk past the place where all the prostitutes gathered.  I looked down at the street and began to pray in fear.  Suddenly I heard a feminine voice say, "Be a man!" ... continue reading

All Year of Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 20:10-13
10 I heard so many disparaging me, 'Terror on every ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 18:2-3, 3-4, 5-6, 7
2 Yahweh is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer is ... Read More

Gospel, John 10:31-42
31 The Jews fetched stones to stone him,32 ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 27th, 2015 Image

St. Rupert
March 27: Bishop and missionary, also listed as Robert of Hrodbert. A ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook

Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter