25th Sunday - homily
I had a very interesting experience last night at the 5 pm Mass. I had been under the impression that Fr Mike was going to give a talk at all the Masses this weekend in place of the homily. So, I didn’t prepare a homily. Then, just before Mass started, I asked Fr Mike if he wanted me to read the long form or short form of the Gospel. He asked why, and my heart sank. “Because of your talk”, I answered. “That’s next weekend”, he said. Oops, I thought to myself. Getting up in front of a Church filled with people with nothing prepared to say…yeah, that’s an interesting experience! I was praying hard to the Holy Spirit, “come on, Spirit, hook me up. This is all you, now!”
One line stands out to me from today’s Gospel: “you cannot serve both God and mammon”. We can understand “mammon” in a few different ways – the things of the world, love of money, or sin /evil in general. Whatever it is, Jesus is saying that we cannot serve two things that are naturally opposed to each other. We have to choose one or the other. We can’t come here each Sunday to serve God as our master and then spend the rest of our week serving the masters of the world – money, power, fame, popularity, etc. It is a daily choice for us – to serve God or mammon.
I’d like to focus on one factor that plays a big role in this choice, I believe: the Cross. It is much harder to serve God than it is to serve the world. We know this and often shy away from carrying our cross. Jesus said in the Gospel two weeks ago that unless we carry our cross we cannot be his disciple. But, it is much harder to have God as our master. For one, we can’t see Him. We can see all of the things of the world – like money - right in front of us, saying, ‘follow me’. That makes it harder to follow God and what’s good. Many people don’t follow God because it’s hard.
It’s also easier to follow the things of the world because of what the world offers: instant gratification, pleasure, “security” (especially financial). The world offers a “quick fix” to our problems. Look at the example of the dishonest steward. He’s a in real bind, about to lose his job. He realizes that he isn’t strong enough to beg or work hard…in other words, he’s not strong enough to suffer, so he takes the easy way out by lying and cheating. This might bring temporary pleasure, but it won’t bring lasting happiness. In fact, it will ultimately bring more pain than pleasure. Jesus say when that happens – when the things of the world fail us – come back to me to find real happiness: “eternal dwellings”.
I also think that Jesus’ sayings about being trustworthy in “small matters” refers to our crosses. If we are trustworthy in carrying our small crosses, then we will be trustworthy in carrying big crosses. This is the way that Jesus lived: he grew up carrying small crosses which prepared him to carry the big one. He didn’t live a life of instant gratification and pleasure. It was hard for Jesus to serve us; so it’s hard for us to serve Him. But, we become more trustworthy the more we carry our crosses. The old saying from Mother Teresa is “Lord, I know you won’t give me more than I can handle. I just wish you didn’t trust me so much!”
Every Sunday, we make the choice to serve God when we come to the Eucharist. There could be other “masters” that we serve – TV, movies, sports, shopping, etc. But, we are saying that, unlike those masters, Jesus gave his life for me. He always knows and wants what’s best for me, and he loves me. He is my master and I serve Him.