My homilies often start with the words of song or a remembrance from a movie or TV show. This will not be one of those homilies. Today the words of this Gospel, the influence of the Holy Spirit and the state of current events compel me otherwise.
I read the short form of todays Gospel because these words are calling to us in confusing and trying times. The message of this Gospel should encourage us to examine intently how we each serve God compared to how we serve the world. We must remember, as people of faith, we are not of the world, yet we are most definitely in the world.
Jesus was never allergic to being blunt. No servant can serve two masters. There is no third alternative; we will serve one or the other; we will either serve God or we will serve someone or something else. You cannot serve both God and mammon.
The English poet Milton said mammon is the devil of covetousness. Defined, mammon is the evil influence and the false object of worship and devotion of money; riches and wealth.
What Jesus is telling us in this Gospel is none of us can be morally neutral in this life. If we live selfishly, we contribute to a culture of selfishness; we bow down to the kingdom of money, worldly power, perk and privilege. If we live for God, on the other hand, we extend the kingdom of justice, love and mercy. This kingdom does not end with our mortal death but extends eternally. These are the only two choices we have; either we follow God or we follow the ways of mammon.
Let's expand mammon to not only include money but to include the failure to use our gifts given to us by God for His glory and the benefit of others. Money can be used for others, it can give glory to God, and so can the gifts of our time and our talent. And a most precious gift that we are meant to use is the gift of our Catholic faith. The sublime teachings of Jesus, as expressed by Holy Mother Church are meant to be embraced and used, not hidden and certainly not to be abandoned or ignored.
Yet just this past week a rather prominent Catholic politician declared that he can endorse so-called same-sex marriage because he believes the Church will come around and change Her unchangeable teaching. Mr. Politician: it's not your Church, it is God's church. Mr. Politician: you cannot serve two masters, you will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. Which will it be? Also this week a group went public with their heretical beliefs; the name of the group: Catholics for Choice. Sadly, the choice they refer to is not the choice to worship God freely in a free society, now this radical group, pandering to politics over faithfulness to the Church, wants the choice for babies to be murdered in the womb. Hey Catholics for Choice: you cannot serve two masters, you will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. Which will it be?
In the recent past another prominent Catholic politician declared that while being personally opposed to abortion, he does not have the right to fight to protect the lives of innocent pre-born babies. Mr. Politician: you don't give life, the government does not give life; God alone gives life and we are required to fight for life, to nurture and protect life and to be a culture of life. Mr. Politician: you cannot serve two masters, you will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. Which will it be?
Let me say a word hear about abortion in this country. In the United States of America, statistically, the most dangerous place to be for any human is not the streets of Chicago or a gang hang out, it indeed is the mother's womb for multitudes of babies. Doubt this? Let's talk facts. For the last year with statistics confirmed, 2013, the number of babies killed in the USA by abortion was 1.1 million; that's 1 million, 100 thousand little human beings. And all done with the full rights and protection of the laws of this land. And all done with the support of politicians who sadly some among us will vote for. Dear Catholics: you cannot serve two masters, you will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. Which will it be? You cannot serve both God and mammon.
This Gospel invites us to be generous. If our gifts be great wealth, or time and talent and indeed our Catholic faith, do we use these gifts to serve God? Do we use these gifts to help others? Do we give glory and honor to God by not hiding or withholding our gifts but by using them?
The gift of our great faith requires us to believe that faith, to live that faith and then share it with others who persist in disobedience or ignorance. As a Deacon, I hear those things that Catholics oppose. I hear the justification to make these things ok because the world says its ok. Again, we cannot serve two masters. The most common things mentioned time and time again include abortion and so-called same-sex marriage, already mentioned in this homily. But I could list living together without the benefit of marriage, artificial contraception, euthanasia, despising the immigrant, no concern at all for the environment, ignoring the prisoner, ignoring the needs of the poor and needy, condoning racism and sometimes even violence, wishing that all criminals receive the death penalty, criticizing the church and her leaders with reckless abandon. And I could go on and on! We cannot serve two masters, we will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. Which will it be?
Our God is not the money in our bank account, the size of our investment portfolio, our careers, our hobbies, our electronics, our fascination with artists, athletes, performers and politicians. Our God is not the opinions of CNN, Fox, or MSNBC. All of the above, not evil in and of themselves, but our unhealthy choices to serve them and not God can indeed be evil.
No servant can serve two masters. We will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. Which will we choose? We cannot serve both God and mammon.
No song, no movie, no TV, just the call to be generous in serving God and using all our gifts for His greater glory and to love one another! Serve God!