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02/26/17 Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Damian

The words of Jesus in today's Gospel reading have been called the most beautiful in all of Scripture and the most impractical. Yet, they are very down to earth.

The Lord hurls into our lives a striking and stark challenge. No one can serve two masters. We cannot serve God and "mammon." The Aramaic word, "mammon," signifies money that has acquired a hypnotic power and become god-like for us. We all know about the power of money in our society. People kill for it, steal it and destroy others' careers to get it. Money can so mesmerize us that its acquisition becomes an end in itself.

 

Many of us try to have it both ways by serving God and mammon. The Lord, however, is explicit and absolute. No one can serve two masters. We all have read stories of the divided heart. Stories about a person torn between two loves fill novels, television programs, cable movies and popular songs. Because a person cannot continue to be pulled in two directions, one love eventually becomes secondary. Many loves can occupy the human heart. But only one can be its center. A ship can have only one captain. Sooner or later, one love will dominate all the others. One will drive our life and the rest will take a back seat.

 

Both God and mammon demand our allegiance. The great churches of faith throughout our land are beginning to be outnumbered by shopping malls that have been called "churches of consumption." More people are beginning to come to the shopping malls than to the churches and spending more time in them than in their churches.

 

We cannot live with a dual allegiance. If our god is "mammon," everything in our life will serve its acquisition. It will diminish everything we do and are. The devotees of mammon are the people who define themselves by what they consume: food, clothing and homes as the Lord says in today's Gospel reading.

The size of their family is guided by financial considerations. Work is defined only by salary. Friends and family are seen as potential contacts or clients. Social events are opportunities for "networking." Life is defined by what they possess. Even their faith becomes a way to make money. God becomes their supernatural insurance carrier. The service of "mammon" commercializes everything about them.

On the other hand, if God is at our center, everything about us is given new dignity. Our family becomes a domestic church. Our work is the place where we can reflect Christ's light and truth to  others. Friends and families are people who journey with us through life. Social events are places where we strengthen the bonds of things we have in common.

If "mammon" is our god, anxiety permeates our life. We live in constant fear that a downturn in the economy or in our finances will cause us to lose what we have. Our sense of self-worth is made to depend on our net worth.

If God is God for us, then trust in His Providence will profoundly strengthen our life. Clearly, the Lord is not calling us in today's Gospel to abandon prudence and sit back passively awaiting divine intervention to meet all our needs. Such irresponsibility has been redlined by the Church as a dangerous aberration called "quietism." We need to use the intelligence and will with which God has endowed us to plan for the future. We are also to trust His Providence that is present in every event, even in the economic downturns we might experience.

To which kingdom have we pledged our allegiance? Is it the kingdom of "mammon" whose horizon is material and limited to the years of our biological life? Or have we pledged allegiance to the Lord Jesus Whose horizon is spiritual and extending to a life that never ends?

Which one truly sets us free, God or mammon?

Which one releases our deepest potential, God or mammon?

Which one gives our life dignity, God or mammon? Which one lifts the burden of sin, God or mammon? Which one remains with us in the dark nights, God or mammon?

Which one will we trust in the evening of our life, God or mammon?

Whether we serve God or mammon doesn't just happen. It is a choice we make every day.

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