Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday February 27, 2011: Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Readings: Is 49:14-15, Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9, 1 Cor 4:1-5
Gospel:   Mt 6:24-34

Note:  Readings and Gospel are available at, under "Readings" tab, then select date.

This week we have very rich readings from scripture to draw upon.  First we must understand the word "mammon" that Jesus uses in today's Gospel (Mathew 6:24- you cannot serve both God and mammon).  Simply put, mammon is the love of the material aspects of the world.  More specifically it can mean the love of money, the thing that St. Paul warns against in a Reading outside of today's "canon".  St. Paul says, "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10).  Whether it is the acquisition of money that motivates us in life, and sometimes it does; or the material excesses that money can enable us to purchase, our Lord warns us that we cannot possess both God and mammon.  We must make a choice.

In our Reading from 2nd Isaiah, we hear a plea for God to be present; to not forget Zion. This short passage closes with the consolation that YHWH cannot forget His people, he is eternally faithful (hesed).  The Psalmist (Ps 62) then exhorts us very beatifully to "Rest in God alone, my soul".  This is a good anthem to pray when we seek the Lord's consolation at times of personal trial.  In St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, "The Apostle" exhorts his followers in Corinth not to judge others.  Corinth is a very wealthy city that features those who would knowingly worship mammon.  We are to leave this instead to Christ, the final judge.

Why not mammon?  First it would be helpful to understand how this mammon manifests itself today. 

We have all probably seen at least one of these car commercials on TV around Christmas: invariably it is a luxury brand automobile company, featuring one of its models.  The car has a big red bow on top and usually features a short artistic profile of the giver and the receiver being full of joy.  They have arrived! 

This advertisement, which plays out in less than 45 seconds, leaves us feeling as if we are sharing the euphoria of the young attractive couple.  Sometimes it seems as if they are newly in love, and other times it is shown with the young family, including their small children rejoicing together.  It appeals to our subconscious.  Once this message is accepted into our minds then our emotions begin to react: get that car and you will arrive in style, and become happy and joyous forever.

Perhaps not.  There are so many things wrong with this image that we must comprehend its errors, for the sake of our eternal souls. 

Now do not misinterpret my reading of this.  Cars are a good, perhaps even luxury brands.
However, our deepest yearning is a relationship with God*.  We are longing to be on a journey of discovery.  One which we begin to comprehend the spirit that animates our souls.  This is God who creates us Imago Dei.  We are created in His image and likeness (as we see in the very beggining of the Bible, Genesis chapter 1 verse 27).  And He loves us beyond comprehension.  We experience His love especially on this journey to which we are all called in our own unique way.

Returning to the automobile advertisement, this "ad" taps into our yearning, albeit a false one.  It is a smart tactic that probably some Madison Avenue advertising firm was paid top dollar for.  But it is a terrible lie.  One that can literally derail us.  This suggests that our happiness resides in "things gotten".  Especially when we "buy into" this false philosopy of living (materialism), it informs us that we are ordered to this world (or we should be ordered to this world), the world that is passing away (1 Jn 2:17).

Instead Jesus offers a correction, a solution to our false yearnings.  Remember Christ encounters many "materialist", many who worship mammon.  These are those who prefer the world to God.  For instance, He is always encountering the Pharisees and Scribes, who want to challenge His reading of the "Law".  They want the status quo and He who Is affirms the correct teachings that these scholars of the day understand but disavows laws and traditions that do not reflect the Father's mercy and love.  Some of these misinterpreted laws and traditions help these Jewish leaders of the day remain in power and in a status of real fiscal wealth.

Jesus says in today's Gospel, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all it's righteousness, and everything that you need to live will be given to you."  Profoundly simple.  Stop worrying, achieving, making our "own beds" in which we must then sleep.  Think of those people we know who have success and then yearn to move up.  They find a better "dream house", bigger and more luxurious transportation and more exotic destinations to visit.  Then one day they come upon hardship.  Real hardship.  Perhaps the loss of a job, or illness or tragedy.  And their world of mammon collapses, their spiritual shallowness becomes exposed.  Sadly and too frequently they become physically and emotionally frail.  Some even perish.

Today Jesus offers us the alternative, Himself.  He who Is manifests God for us in His human flesh.  He who teaches us who God really is through his words, lessons, deeds and ultimately His paschal sacrifice on The Cross.

He who is, "The Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6).  This is his response in The Gospel of John when His Apostles ask him for encouragement.  They do not know what they will face when Jesus is gone but we could speculate that they were scared when they heard these words at this Last Supper account.

The Pharisees and Scribes rejected Him and His message, two millenia ago.  In fact, most of the world did then and perhaps most of it rejects Him even today.  We must remember first His eternal sacrifice that he made for our redemption at The Cross.  It is also helpful to remember that all of the Apostles, except John**, became willing Martyrs for the faith as well after witnessing the resurrected and glorified Messiah, Jesus Christ. 

Today on this Sunday, let us then approach him at the altar of sacrifice at our Mass.  Here we remember his sacrifice, join it to our own in communion with Him and His Bride, the Church.  Then we receive His precious Body and Blood, the Bread of Life that can nourish us on our earthly pilgrimmage to Heaven.  A pilgrimmage in which we are offered a choice: to worship the eternal triune God, or things of the world.

*See St. Augustine's masterpiece, The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book I, Chapter 1.

**One interpretation of St. John the Evangelist dying a natural death is this:
God spared St. John the Evangelist the death of a Martyr as scripture reveals (Jn 21:23), perhaps so that the New Testament Canon could be completed by him.  Many scholars attribute to him the Gospel of John, three Letters and probably the Book of Revelation, all of which is believed to have been written after 90 A.D.

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