The end of the Gospel reading (Luke 17:7-10) for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time stirs up some of my old feelings of resentment. Who among us has not, like the servant in Luke's story, worked long hours and then was told to work more into the evening. Resentment is the natural response.
The request - actually order - to do extra work can come for many reasons. Sometimes this happens because the boss is busy. Sometimes we have to do an extra job because somebody else failed to plan. My agency's communications center posted a reminder to those who needed last minute transmissions. It said: "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part." This was a sort of pre-emptive resentment.
Luke tells us about the servant who, after plowing all day, came in and was ordered to prepare a meal for his master. We are, Jesus says, not to expect thanks but only to say "We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty." I feel myself refusing to say that I am "unworthy."
America Magazine's Barbara Ried, OP softens the passage. She writes that the Greek word "acheroi" should not be translated as "worthless." A better translation would be "without need'."
Last week we met an old friend at a Kiwanis function. When we asked him how he was doing we learned that he was struggling to care for his business, his family and his seriously ill wife. Knowing the man, I can easily imagine that, if we praised him for his struggles, he would say: "I'm only doing my job." He is "without need" for praise; he only wants to take care of his business, his family and his wife.
To be without need requires that we care about the job more than our personal needs. Experiencing resentment just might be a sign that we have lost focus. (There is another possiblity: maybe the overtime requirement is unjust and we need to defend our boundaries.)