Homily – September 22, 2019

XXV Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year C
22 September 2019

Very often, lessons from the lives of the saints teach us something about the faith and how to live it – and live it well… No matter when they lived. St. Ida is one such story… the granddaughter of Charlemagne she grew up in his imperial court in Germany in the 9th century. She married a duke, and had one child. When he died, she never remarried but instead dedicated the rest of her life – time, effort, and material wealth – to serving the poor. While many in the imperial court were tempted to wealth, pleasure and power… she saw it as an opportunity to serve – she used to fill up a stone coffin with food and distribute the food to the poor, thus at one and the same time she served the poor and reminded herself of her own death … She loved to serve more than her status…

Isn’t it interesting that in the course of this teaching Jesus uses the word ‘hate’ yet again? This is the second time we have heard Him use this word in recent weeks. Our modern sense of the meaning of this word is ‘to passionately dislike something or someone.’ But this is not what was conveyed in the time of Christ … in ancient times ‘hate’ meant simply to love less. He told us 2 weeks ago unless you hate father, mother … you cannot be my disciple … today He says: you cannot serve two masters, you will either hate one and love the other … Hate … to love less … St. Ida loved her royal state in life less than she loved the poor … and she used her state in life to help them…

Mammon is another interesting word. Its origin is Aramaic with no equivalent in Greek or in Latin – and thus neither in English. What does it mean? Most definitions will render the meaning as “riches” or “wealth”. In First Timothy St. Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of evil… but we have to understand it in the context of mammon – wealth as a false object of worship.

Now do we understand the meaning behind Jesus’ words at the end of the Gospel today … you cannot serve two masters … you cannot serve both God and mammon… essentially He is asking us: what is the object of our worship? To what are we most devoted? St. John Paul II wrote about this in his Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio: On Faith and Reason where he noted that even folks that do not believe in God still stake their lives in some philosophy, some type of value system by which they live … The Protestant theologian Paul Tillich called it the “ultimate concern” – this is what Jesus is getting at – what is it that we put above all else? In serving the poor, St. Ida served Christ because she saw Him in them … we can say the same about St. Teresa of Calcutta … she staked her whole life in an effort to alleviate the sufferings of others …

We are like the steward in the Gospel in one sense. God has given us unique talents, gifts, abilities, resources … and Jesus challenges us: are we using them for ourselves, in other words have we devoted ourselves mainly to our own interests? Or are using them for good, to do good, to confer goodness on others? You see, I don’t think Jesus would ever really ask us to hate our own interests or not pursue academic excellence, or to get better at a sport, or to move up the ranks in our jobs and so on… but rather to see these things as opportunities for goodness … to love these things less than our God and our commitment to doing that which is right, speaking that which is true … staking our lives in Him – in His system of values, beliefs and morals…

What is it that we put above all else? What do we love the most? It is true – we put a lot of time, effort and energy into our earthly, everyday affairs – work, school, sports, family life – when we put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls we will have a living and working faith.

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