In this reading from the Gospel, in Luke 12:41-50, we find the Disciples asking the Lord Jesus whether or not his teaching is for everyone, or only for them. The Lord Jesus speaks about the servant who is always ready for the return of his Master, and does not spare any effort in doing those things which his Master has asked of him. He takes care of the household, and ensures that those in his charge, his fellow-servants, are properly fed. While there is another servant, who lacks such care, and becomes violent and self-indulgent, whom the Master will judge and condemn when he returns.
I always turn to the Fathers of the Church when I open the Scriptures, so that I am reading them in agreement with the Church, and not according to my own personal opinion. And in this passage, St Cyril of Alexandria, preaches very directly towards those who have responsibility in the Church. He is clear that this warning is addressed to those we might class as bishops, priests and servants. It is interesting that at the very beginning of Great Lent there should be such a passage from the Scripture placed in our way. Of course we must all become like the faithful servant, but it is those with pastoral and teaching responsibility in the flock of Christ who are especially warned.
St Cyril says about those who have these ministries, and I know that he speaks to me also…
What are the virtues He requires? Constancy in the faith; correctness in teaching; to be well grounded in hope; unwavering in patience; invincible in spiritual strength; cheerful and brave in every more excellent achievement: that so we may be examples to others of the evangelic life. For if we will thus live, Christ will bestow upon us the crown.
There is a sense that each of us is required to live like this of course. Even in our homes, at school or university, at work and even in our daily social interactions we have a responsibility to teach others what it means to be a Christian by the very example of our life. But how much more does this apply to the bishop, the priest and all those who have a ministry of service in the Church.
St Cyril considers the verse in this passage where the good and faithful servant … gives them their portion of food in due season. He understands this as describing how the teacher in the Church is to carefully provide the right teaching and spiritual advice at the right time for each person. He puts it in these words…
The Saviour has ordained as stewards, so to speak, over his servants;—-that is, over those who have been won by faith to the acknowledgment of His glory;—-men faithful and of great understanding, and well instructed in the sacred doctrines. And He has ordained them, commanding them to give their fellow-servants their allowance of food; and that not simply and without distinction, but rather at its proper season: by which is meant such food, I mean spiritual food, as is sufficient and fitting for each individual.
What a responsibility this is for those with such ministry. Who is able to fulfill it without the grace of God by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Though we must all seek to be and become faithful servants, let me urge you all to pray for those who serve you in this manner, that they might become all that God wills for them and fulfill that ministry which was given them in their ordination. And not only for those who are bishops and priests, but for all those we serve in this manner in the Church.
May the Lord preserve those he has ordained to these ministries and grant all that is needed to serve in obedience and humility, with love and compassion, until the Master returns.