Saturday, February 26, 2011

8th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A:

    You cannot serve both God and Mammon. Mammon is an Aramaic word that means wealth or property. So, Jesus is giving us an important lesson today. We remember that we are still in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount. For the past many weeks Jesus has been telling us to avoid sin. We are supposed to rid ourselves of anger, lust, vengeance, and hatred for our enemies. I think we can all agree that these things are bad and that we should try to rid ourselves of them. But, today Jesus tells us something a bit different. Even things that are good, or at least neutral, can harm our relationship with God.

    Go ahead, I dare you, try to live without money. Now there are many examples of people throughout the history of the Church who have taken vows of poverty, refusing to own anything. Think of St. Francis and St. Dominic who helped change the world because of their insistence on a simple life. There are still people in our world living out these same vows. Think of the Franciscan Sisters over in Mishawaka, I am constantly amazed by their simplicity and by their deep sense of Joy that comes from this simple life. But, this kind of life is not for everyone. Try to raise a family without money. How can you put food on the table, send your kids to school, and keep a roof over your head without money. Money is a tool, neither good nor bad. It is simply a tool that we should use on the more important things in life: food, clothing, housing, education, etc. But, Christ reminds us today that we can become so fixated on the tool, that it becomes an end in itself, and not a means. If money ever becomes an end, then we are lost. Money will become our Master: we can only have one Master, we cannot serve Christ if we are slaves to money.

    Now you might be saying: no problem there! I'm not a slave to money. It is easy for us to hear Jesus' words today and think that he must be talking about those shady, money grubbing people we see in movies, the kind of people who would push an old lady down a flight of stairs to make money. Don't be so sure! This command is directed to every single one of us who has to live in the world. Jesus goes on to explain some of the ways people become enslaved by this passing world, he gives us four commands.

Do not worry about your life. I have met many people who live in constant fear of death, terrified that death is around the next corner. Do not worry about what you will eat or drink. I know I fall into this category! I love food, but our fascination with food can take us away from what really matters, Jesus Christ, who is the bread of life. Do not worry about your body. Here is a big one for us Americans. We are fixated on body image. But, being preoccupied with concerns of the body leads us away from Christ, which is why Christ commands us not to worry about the body. Finally, Jesus commands us not to worry about what we will wear. Clothing is essential. Especially here in South Bend where it seems like winter just goes on and on, but is it really worth the fuss we put into it? I can tell you that my life is pretty simple! I just get up and put on my black clerical outfit, which certainly makes my life easier.

There is a common thread in each of these commands: do not worry. Worrying is a sign that we are serving Mammon. I think all of us, from time to time, fall into worry. Many of us worry about the future: what will tomorrow bring, what will I do if something bad happens, what will I do if something good happens, etc? Jesus forbids us to worry because he wants us to trust in him. As we hear in Isaiah this morning, God never forgets us. Jesus reminds us "Your heavenly Father knows what you need." Put your trust in God, he will be with you tomorrow! Some of us worry about the past. Perhaps we have skeletons in our closet. We have sins and failings in the past that cause us anxiety. In the second reading Paul tells us, it does not concern me to be judged by any human court. Paul certainly had things in his past that were cause for worry: he persecuted the Church. But, he put his trust in God and refused to worry about the past, since he trusted in the Lord's mercy.

Jesus commands us not to worry. Perhaps this is the most difficult command he has ever given us. We have much to worry about, things in the past, things in the future. But, if Christ is going to be our Master, if we believe in him and want to be with him forever in the life to come, we have to trust in him. This is why we mustn't worry about the past, we mustn't worry about the future, we should only live today and live it in communion with Christ. This is why we continually come here to the Mass to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. It reminds us that we only have today to establish a relationship with Christ. We cannot worry about the past, it is gone. We cannot worry about the future, it will never be here. Today Christ is here in the Holy Eucharist and he asks you a simple question: Will you trust in me?

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