ODAY’S GOSPEL is a continuation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Being God, He did not have to prepare or rehearse what He was going to say. But on the other hand, who knows, He might have spent the night before in prayer or in ‘conscious contact’ with His Heavenly Father thinking over what He was going to say to the people the next day. Now, I have to admit, this is just idle speculation on my part and you are free to take it or leave it.
The Two Masters: Probably the most puzzling word in the first part is that word ‘mammon’. One of the wonderful things about computers is that you can type in or google the word ‘mammon’ and you will have all kinds of information. In this particular case, the general idea of the word ‘mammon’ is that it refers to money, wealth and riches. Sometimes preachers will make a point of the fact that in the first case Jesus uses the words ‘hate and love’ and then He says ‘be devoted to and despise’ in the other. A thought that occurred to me was one found in Hebrew poetry, especially in the Psalms. There, frequently, the authors will try to repeat the same thing or idea but in different ways. I do think though, that when it comes to people who love money and wealth or who make money or wealth their god, that often this god does not make them happy. Instead of their money making them enjoy life, it almost seems to make them miserable. However, I do not intend to make that the main focus for today.
I have entitled the following part of my sermon or homily as the positive approach to life and happiness. Oh, if we could only really believe and trust Jesus’ words when He tells us not to worry about our lives, about what we will eat or drink or wear. I wonder if I asked you people present here: Has anyone ever been close to starving to death? Has anyone here ever not had enough clothing to wear? Has anyone here ever been homeless? I doubt if any hands would go up. We have never been anywhere near the point when we had nothing to eat, at least not for any extended period of time.
I don’t like to speak in psychological terms, since the only psychology I ever studied was the general courses which we had in the seminary. I do know that psychologists will make a distinction between what we know intellectually or in our head, and what we feel in our heart or, to speak colloquially, in our gut. I once heard this distinction made between faith and trust. The following example may bring this out. Faith exists when I believe that a tight-rope walker can push a wheel-barrow over a rope suspended high in the air. Trust would exist if I’m willing to ride in the wheel-barrow! In today’s Gospel Jesus is trying to teach us how to increase and improve our trust. I have just used examples from our past to try to show and prove to you that Jesus has never let us down in the past. What makes you think He would start now?
I SUPPOSE MANY OF YOU are familiar with what is called the “Serenity Prayer.” An important line in this little prayer is: “God grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change.” When Jesus tells us we cannot add one moment to our life by worrying about it, He doesn’t tell us that we are not going to die. He isn’t telling us that we might not have some problem tomorrow. He does say though that if we do put God first in our lives, the rest will all be taken care of. Jesus is realistic enough to know that we may have problems. That is why He said, “Sufficient for a day is its own evil. Do not worry about tomorrow.” In the past I have to admit that I probably suffered more from things that never happened than from things that did happen. I still tend to do this, but at least I’m waking up to how foolish this is and am not doing it quite as much as I used to. I don’t hesitate to say this about myself, because I’ll bet there is at least one other person who does the same thing, probably many. We all tend to. And yet Jesus tells us not to. But if we do this, we are showing a lack of trust in God, and we don’t really get a chance to enjoy life. God didn’t intend us to be happy just in heaven. It is perfectly alright to have some happiness even now. And if you are trying to live, doing the will of God, you have a right to be happy.
I mentioned psychology and psychologists before. In no way do I want to belittle or criticize that profession. I’m sure they do much good and can often be necessary. I am sure that many of them, especially if they have the faith, would agree that fewer people would need their services if people really lived by Jesus’ advice in today’s Gospel selection. The story is told of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta. Whenever she was in a financial bind, she didn’t worry about paying the bills. She would simply say, “Oh, God has plenty of money!” I never heard of any of her foundations being taken over because of foreclosure! And if they would be, she would be able to see this as the will of God. She was certainly in a win-win situation.
The short first reading speaks of a mother’s love for her child. There was a time when the Jewish people, who in Old Testament times, were God’s chosen people, felt that God had abandoned them. The reason they felt this way was because of their sins and unfaithfulness to God. Now just because they felt that way, it did not mean that God had really forgotten or abandoned them. God has given all of us a free will, which means He can’t force us to obey Him or His commandments. But in His infinite knowledge He also knows that we might turn back to Him if certain misfortunes come our way. He also knows that no possible misfortune on this earth is as bad as our eternal condemnation. Has the thought ever struck you that the people destroyed by the flood or the destruction at Sodom and Gomorrah may all be in heaven now? I didn’t intend to turn this sermon into a ‘fire and brimstone’ sermon. But my own St. Francis told his followers that “in the preaching they do, be it done for the utility and edification of the people, announcing to them vices and virtues, punishment and glory.” In other words followers of St. Francis should preach to the people what is right and what is wrong and about heaven and hell. I don’t have to tell you what goes with what. Unfortunately we are living in a time when literally thousands of mothers every day are seemingly able to forget the child of their womb, by having it killed before it is born. We do know that when someone does that they will find it hard to live that worry free life which Jesus speaks of today. Yes, God will forgive even that sin. It’s just that the one who commits the sin will find it so hard to feel forgiven. If one avoids that sin, then that will never be a problem.
We hope you enjoyed this homily by Fr. Valentine Young, OFM.