September 18, 2022; Lk 16:1-13; 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mammon is the Hebrew word for “money.” So when we hear the last line of today’s Gospel, “You cannot serve both God and mammon,” it is reasonable to conclude that today’s Gospel is about the proper use of our material possessions. But that is only partially true. The important line in the gospel comes earlier when Jesus says, “No servant can serve two masters.” What Jesus believes is that if we are going to be happy, if we are going to live a full life, we must serve God alone. God alone must be our master. Now it is not always easy to serve God but when we serve God, we know we are on the right path. When we serve God, we understand that God’s love is guiding us. So, the person who serves God lives a blessed life.
But occasionally, we are tempted to hedge on that service. Every so often, we are tempted to let another good thing compete with our service of God. This introduces conflict and worry into our lives. Another good thing lessens our devotion to God and our life becomes less because of it.
Money can be an example of this. You cannot serve both God and money. Not that money is bad. We need money. We need money to live. We need money to retire. But when we begin to think that the money we have is there because we have earned it ourselves and forget how God has blessed us to enable us to do that, or when we look at our money and say, “Because we have this, now I can deal with any crisis or calm any fear,” then we let money become our master. And money will, in time, let us down.
You cannot serve God and popularity. It is a good thing to be popular. It is a blessing that other people like us. But when we start worrying too much about what other people think, when we begin to boast and exaggerate our talents so that people will like us more, then popularity becomes our master. We lose the freedom to be the person that we are, regardless of how others see us.
You cannot serve both God and health. Health is a great blessing. It is a good thing to have energy, flexibility, and the ability to do what we want. But when we begin to fixate on our health, always looking for new vitamins or treatments for our body, when we are so afraid of aging that we deny the inevitable and refuse to let the people who love us help us, then health becomes our master. And health will never be faithful.
The only master who is faithful, both here and hereafter, is God. Only God will never fail to love us. So whenever we become tempted to split our commitment between God and some lesser thing, today’s Gospel tells us to resist. It asks us to stay with the master who will never abandon us. It calls us to serve the master whose love will always endure.