Jesus uses the image of masters and slaves, as much as any other, to characterize our relationship to God, and to the world. For us, we may not be so quick to identify with the image of masters and slaves as Jesus’ first hearers were. Yet, many of us, I suspect, know something about being a slave; that is, we know something about being owned, being bound, being controlled by something other than God. Perhaps it’s wealth that we are owned by, as Jesus suggests. Perhaps we are slaves to obsessions and compulsions; addictions, in a word, that dictate what we do, where we go, and who we associate with. It may be that pride is calling the shots, or maybe lust is your master; it might be greed, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, but we don’t have to specialize.
Few are exempt. Most of us know something about what it means to be a slave. We can say with St. Paul, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”1 Most of us know what it means to be a slave. It’s the reason these stories still resonate. And it’s the reason that there is good news.
We don’t have to be slaves. Christ has set us free. The locks on our chains have been broken. We can lift up our arms and let the chains just fall away. But, the chains cannot fall away if we have become so attached to them that we fear being without them. The chains may no longer be attached to us, but we may still be attached to our chains.2
True, many of us are a lot freer than we use to be – thank you, God – and we know we still have a long way to go. In many cases, we remain bound because we forget who the Master is. We forget who set us free, and what for. We are set free by God, a more powerful Master than anything that might enslave us. We are set free by God. Bought with a price so it’s true our lives are no longer our own, they are owned by God. Owned by God not for slavery, but so that we might become servants, servants of God. As God’s servants, we present ourselves humbly before the Master each day – reporting for duty. “How can I best serve you?” “What would you have me do today?” “Thy will, not mine be done.” Like any good master, God cares for – even loves – his servants, and gives them everything they need to get the job done: food, clothing, shelter, tools to do the work. All this and more is provided by the Master, and we all have evidence of that. All we need to do is show up for the work, present ourselves to God each day expecting guidance and direction. It’s the conditions under which we become increasingly free. Set free from slavery so that we might become God’s servants. As God’s servants, the Master provides everything that we need. Amen.
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