Ordinary 19th Sunday – THROUGH DUTY TO GOD

Ordinary 19th Sunday

Wis. 18: 6-9                              Heb. 11: 1-2, 8-19                                 Lk. 12: 32-48



A proper attitude towards our duties will make our lives more fulfilled and will also deepen our faith in God.


Duty: A Carefree Attitude:

An imaginative story is said about a Russian who was a very staunch proponent of atheism. He talked and preached so much against the existence of God. Many theists tried to argue with him and convince him of the existence of God, but miserably failed. Once it so happened that he came to India on a trip that lasted for about 6 months. On his return, he called reporters and told them that he was no more an atheist. He claimed that there must be God. The reporters were taken up by surprise. One of them asked him, whether the land of India, which is known for its deep spirituality, gave him any sort of God-experience. The atheist clarified, “No! no! it is not because of any sort of God-experience.” Then he continued, “As I went around India, I noticed that people in general do not care about their duties. People, in offices, while away their time. Politicians certainly don’t do their duties. Government servants are the least concerned ones about their duties.  I realized that if a country could survive in spite of such a dereliction of duty, then there must be a God who is responsible for the survival of that country. So I came to the conclusion that God must exist.”

Well! This is the country in which we live. We are keen on receiving a lot from others, but very reluctant to give back our service to them. This self-centredness is one of the main reasons why many are careless about their duties. Late President Abdul Kalam divided people into three groups on the basis of doing their duties or works: ‘There are winners who do tomorrow’s work today. There are averages who do today’s work today. And there are failures who do yesterday’s work today.’ In the gospel, Jesus speaks of the servant who discharges his duties responsibly and faithfully and the servant who is careless about his duties. Jesus further says that the dutiful servant would be rewarded and the careless servant be punished.

Duty and a Life of Fulfilment:

There is a strong connection between one’s attitude towards duty and the fulfilment one enjoys in life. When one has got a proper attitude and right approach towards duty, then there are more possibilities that one would enjoy a higher level of fulfilment. In Indian tradition, there is something called karma marga. It is the path of attaining one’s fullness of life through action. A person who does not care about one’s duties, has not yet taken any step to move in the direction of finding one’s fullness.

It is said that there are three stages in this marga. Doing duties prescribed by social structures and religious traditions is the initial phase of karma marga. In the second stage, one begins to do  duties with inner freedom (nishkāma karma). (The phrase nishkāma karma techinically means ‘to act without attachment to fruits (of our duty).’ Unfortunately today, the predominant mindset is not nishkāma karma, but nis-karma-kāma i.e. ‘to have fruits (=benefits) without action.) The final phase consists of serving and working for the welfare of the world (logasamgraha). It is the passionate concern for the wellbeing of all. Here duty/service becomes participation in divine will. Mother Teresa’s words “We are all responsible in our own small way for making the world a better place” precisely point to it.

Duty and Faith:

The first two readings speak about faith. The first reading talks about the  faith of a group – how the Israelites had a firm faith in the saving hand of Yahweh while they were under slavery in Egypt. The second reading talks about the faith of an individual, namely Abraham – how he had strongly anchored his faith in God.

There is a strong co-relation between faith and duty. Discharge of duty faithfully in all three levels (as explained above), demands a certain amount of a larger vision of life and a deep faith in God. People who have got a myopic vision of life will look at what is immediate and tangible and get lost in it. They begin to do what is immediately gratifying and thus get involved in all sorts of enjoyments which estrange them from their duties. On the other hand, a person of deep faith discharges one’s duties wilfully and joyfully.

We all know that the great Titanic ship got sunk in 1912. When it was sinking, it is said that the ship’s bandmaster and violinist, Wallace Hartley, played the music till the end, while the other people were trying to escape. He did not much care about his life.  He died on 15th April, 1912 at the young age of 33. After two weeks, his body was found with his uniform and the music case strapped to it. He was highly appreciated for his sense of duty and altruism. About 35,000 people attended his funeral. But for his deep faith in God, we cannot explain his positive attitude towards duty and death. It is said that the song he sang at the last moment was ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee,’ a famous 19th century Christian hymn, which, as its content, retells the story of Jacob’s dream (Gen. 28: 10-15).

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