Sunday Sermon for February 26, 2017, the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 49:14-15; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Mt 6:24-34
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that we cannot serve two masters. We will either hate the one and love the other or we will be devoted to one and despise the other. Then He states the point clearly: we cannot serve God and mammon.
We have all heard this many times, but have we ever stopped to think about what our Lord says next? When we consider the context, mammon is not just money. Jesus tells us not to worry about things like what we are going to eat or drink; He tells us not to be anxious about what we are to wear. In this same vein, the Church gives us the second reading today in which St. Paul speaks about people judging him. Our attachment to what others think of us is huge for most people.
Seen in this light, we can understand mammon in a larger context. While it certainly comprises the love of money, we can see that it can also envelope a lot of other areas of attachment. To be even more clear, since all attachments are selfish, mammon can be understood as meaning any point of selfishness. In our humanness, we tend to ignore the fact that something is selfish. We try to put things at an arm’s distance when the truth is that they are really right within our own hearts.
So, whether the attachment (and the consequent fear and anxiety that we might lose that to which we are attached) is to money, food, clothing, the esteem of others, our widget collection, or whatever it may be, that attachment fills our hearts and crowds out the Lord. Recall that Jesus told us to love God with our whole heart; attachments allow us to love God and neighbor with only part of our heart.
All of our fears and worries cause us to become very self focused. We try to control things, we scheme and manipulate to try to make things go the way we want them to go. All of this means that we have taken our focus off of God and, even worse, we have made ourselves into a god because our energy and our focus is on the self. It becomes a form of self worship.
In telling us not to worry about all of these things, and even giving us a bit of a slap stating that this is what the pagans do, our Lord tells us that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His way of righteousness. He goes on to tell us that everything else will be provided for us if we can do this. Why do we focus on ourselves rather than God? Why do we seek to make our own little kingdom when we are children of God who should be seeking His Kingdom?
The answer, beyond the point of our selfishness, is that we do not trust God. The truly ironic aspect of this is that we actually trust ourselves. There is nothing in the universe that demonstrates our stupidity more that this point. There is no one in the world who has failed us more than our own self, and yet we continue to trust ourselves. God, on the other hand, has never failed us, although we try to say that He has because He did not do what we wanted or demanded when and how we wanted something done.
God only wills the best for us; we often want what is not the best. Sometimes we want what is good, other times we want things that a very bad, but regardless, they are not the best. When God does not give us what we want, it is because it is not the best at that moment. Along with this, He is trying to help us to learn trust. Why should we trust Him?
We should trust Him because He is God and wills only the best. But that is an objective statement. We should trust Him because He made us to be loved and He will only love us. He tells us in the first reading even if a mother should forget her child, which is not possible, He will never forget us. We have the promise in the Gospel that He will give us everything if we are seeking first His Kingdom.
So, we have many reasons to trust Him and many reasons not to trust ourselves. It is time that we have a conversion of our inversion, i.e., we need to quit trusting ourselves and trust God. If we serve ourselves, we will hate God because we cannot serve two masters. We are not the master; we need to get the focus off the self and on to God.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.