Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Lk 16:13)
The teaching that Jesus wants to give us here concerns wealth, and Luke who is the evangelist of the poor, acts as his spokesperson. The Aramaic word for “mammon” means material goods but Jesus uses the word “mammon” as the embodiment of treasures that take the place of God in people’s hearts. It hearkens back to the Old Testament which says: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (Dt 6:5) Loving God is not a choice but a command.
The danger of wealth is that people fall in love with it to the point that they put all their strength and all their time into holding on to it and increasing it. Wealth becomes an idol to which everything else is sacrificed. So Jesus compares this mammon to a master who is so demanding that he won’t allow any other. This is why Jesus is saying we need to make a choice without compromises. “No servant can serve two masters.” Jesus is not placing before us an alternative of choosing God or mammon. He says clearly in our lives we must choose God.
He is not condemning wealth but the exclusive place it can occupy in the human heart. He doesn’t require absolute poverty of everyone. Disciples like Joseph of Arimathea were wealthy. What is needed is a sense of detachment, a certain disinterest. Wealthy persons should consider themselves not so much owners as administrators of goods they possess for these goods belong primarily to God and are destined not only to a privileged few but to everyone. Wealth is an excellent tool if used to serve those in need, to do good and to promote social well-being, not only by means of charitable works but also in the management of business. This is the only way to use our goods without becoming enslaved by them. Where our treasure is there is also our heart.
Sam tells this story: I was approaching twenty-one years of employment with the same company, making a good salary and receiving good benefits. There were rumors that our department would close and that is what happened. All the staff of our department were assigned to a placement center for sixty days.
In a few days I had an interview in the company and it went well. But as I was leaving a little voice from inside kept saying, “What that department is involved in is unacceptable to your beliefs.” It caught me by surprise because I had worked in that same division twenty-one years before and thought nothing of it. But now having made a choice to put God first in my life I couldn’t turn my back on him.
I talked it over with my wife, Rita, and we agreed I should not take this particular job. The next day I turned down the offer that would have given me the same pay, benefits and security to which we had become accustomed. As we watched twenty years of hard work and dreams—all our security—vanish before our eyes, the whole family turned to God.
Rita added: When Sam and I sat down to discuss the job offer, the idea of holding on to the security was tempting, but we really had the feeling that God was asking us to say yes to him by turning our backs on material worries and really placing ourselves in his hands, trusting in his providence.
God Bless You,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus tells three Parables of Mercy: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son. It is a response to the criticism made against him by Jesus contemporaries who are upset with him for welcoming publicans and sinners. They saw this as destroying the sharp separation that they thought God would maintain between the righteous and sinners. Jesus wants to help them understand God’s way of reasoning.
God treats us the way a father treats his children. He loves his child first of all, because he is his own flesh and blood. God loves us because he created us; we came from his heart. His love goes much further beyond our weaknesses and sins. God’s love is beyond anger, and persistently reaches out to us no matter what the offense. If he has preference it is for those most in need and he is the first to act and seek out the child who has gone astray. He is so focused on that one, it is as if no one else exists. So, for example, in the parable of the Lost Coin, even though it does not have the value of a sheep, we see the extreme of God’s love in the woman who commits herself wholeheartedly in a meticulous search to find the coin.
God has infinite patience. He awaits us and we give him immense joy every time, even if it is an infinite number of times, we return to him. We should open our hearts as God does – toward those who have distanced themselves from him, reaching out toward those most in need as this story of Dina relates.
I was married to Dave for 33 years and I loved him completely, yet something was not right in our marriage. When we were married eighteen years things got very difficult. He was aloof and acted like he didn’t want to be married anymore and I told him so. I told him he was free to leave, but I wouldn’t. For the next twelve years we would have periods when things were okay and then long periods when he would be emotionally distant.
There came a time when he seemed to be trying harder in our marriage. One night when the children were in bed we talked through the night. He confessed that he had had numerous affairs, which I suspected, and was in one at that time. He said he couldn’t choose between the other woman and me. I told him he needed to leave our home. He was very confused and needed to sort things out. In the morning he told the children he was leaving. It was the worst period of my life.
We talked every day; I had to make a conscious decision to forgive him for what he had done. There were times when I failed miserably.
I told Dave he needed professional help. To my surprise he spoke very honestly to a priest who suggested the same thing. More surprisingly he immediately set up regular sessions with a therapist. I learned about the horrible things that had happened to him as a child that he had buried. He was having horrible flashbacks and he was very fragile.
After two weeks I realized Dave needed to come home to heal but first we would need to have a family meeting. This was very painful for him. He needed to hear what the children had to say. The children were open and honest but some were not ready to have him come home. However I knew he needed to. In the end the family agreed. It was a rocky time of emotionally fragile people living together.
Dave continued therapy and he asked me to accompany him which I did not want to do. I was not the one messed up. I decided to do everything God was asking of me and I went to several sessions. I developed a great respect for the therapist.
Gradually things got better. It took a lot of hard work and prayer. We needed to build up trust again and talked a lot, avoiding hurting each other or unconsciously opening up old wounds. Without all the peoples’ prayers I don’t think I could have done it.
Two years late when things were getting better, Dave was diagnosed with cancer, dying fifteen months later. When he died he was healed emotionally and spiritually. It took a lot of courage and humility for Dave to deal with the damage that was done to him and the damage he did.
He became a whole, genuine person. God is good.
God Bless You,