8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 26, 2017
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
You know, I don’t really like talking about money, especially asking for money, especially from the pulpit.
I suppose there are several reasons for that:
–first, I’m a priest not salesman;
–and it’s difficult:
I’m trying to get you to give away something you’ve worked hard for.
But mainly, I’m reluctant because there’s always,
hanging in the back of my mind,
the words of Jesus that we read today:
“You cannot serve [both] God and mammon.”
The thing is, “mammon” or money, riches, and wealth,
is so tempting, so alluring…
And it so easily leads us away from God.
Now, its true, we need money to live.
So fathers and mothers work hard to provide enough
and carefully spend or save for their families.
But money and riches are seductive:
it’s all too easy to forget money is raised for the good of the family
—that it’s a means to an end, not a goal in itself.
And so too often money winds up corrupting the family.
Some folks spend so much time making money for their family
they wind up neglecting to spending time with their family.
Maybe they worry so much about having a beautiful house or the best schools that they go way into debt and never have a moment’s peace.
Maybe money just comes easy to them—maybe they inherited a huge estate—
but even then, it can not only lead them into all sorts of sinful habits,
but also spoil their children rotten.
In so many ways, love of money can ruin the family.
The same thing happens in nations.
For decades America has been known as the wealthiest nation on earth.
But now we have huge debt and deficits,
and even with that, we still have huge expectations
of the material well-being we’re each entitled to have.
Again, money is necessary, and free enterprising capitalism is good
—but maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the line,
we forgot: “you cannot serve both God and Mammon.”
And the same thing happens in the Church.
Pastors can get so caught up in money,
they become afraid to preach the hard teachings about faith or morals,
lest the collection go down.
Other pastors find it much easier to succeed at fundraising and spending
than at saving souls.
In any case fundraising has concrete and measurable results
that people can look at and praise:
“gee what a great pastor Father is, he built a beautiful church,
or paid down a huge debt.”
Not a lot of folks come and tell you:
“gee Father, your people are so moral and so faithful to the magisterium.”
I’m going to be very honest with you now,
so please, let’s just keep this between us.
The same thing can happen with the “Bishop’s Lenten Appeal.”
I remember a few years ago
I was talking to someone intimately involved in the BLA,
and when I mentioned the theme of today’s Gospel,
they got all excited said, basically,
“that’s great, you can tell them to serve God
by giving their Mammon to the Church.”
Well, they meant well, and I suppose there’s something to that.
But there’s also a problem: working hard, and devoting lots of time and energy
all to raise money to serve God, as it were,
can too easily become more and more about the money,
and less and less about God.
And even as important as it is to be good stewards of the wealth God gives us,
if we’re not careful we’ll forget what St. Paul tells us in today’s first reading:
“Thus should one regard us:
as servants of Christ
and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
And as Jesus reminds us today:
“Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
What good is it to give food to a hungry man,
if you leave him starving for the eternal Word of God.
What good is it if you pay to educate 100s of seminaries toward the priesthood,
if once they’re ordained you ignore them when they preach the Gospel?
“You cannot serve both God and Mammon.”
I hope you see why I don’t like to ask for money—especially from here, the pulpit.
It’s all too easy to get confused,
to think that money is the answer to all our problems,
even God’s problems;
and from there it’s a short step to not even recognizing
the difference between serving God and serving Mammon.
You need money to live, and for your family,
so work hard and spend and save carefully.
And your parish needs money to keep pay for heating, salaries and the debt.
And your Diocesan Church needs money
to provide for so many worthwhile projects
—so please give generously to the BLA.
But remember what Jesus goes on to say today:
“do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ ….or ‘What are we to wear?’
…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.”
And never forget:
“No one can serve two masters….
You cannot serve God and mammon.”