Sunday, September 18, 2011
The 14th Sunday after Pentecost
My dear faithful:
Ye cannot serve two masters. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. For you will hate the one and love the other, or else love the one and despise the other. You can’t love both God and mammon. So let’s decide right now today: which will you choose? Which will ye love? And which will ye choose to hate?
First, let’s just take a moment to figure out what is this mammon that Our Lord is talking about. It’s not a word we use very much these days, except in sermons, is it? Why didn’t Our Lord say the Devil? Ye cannot serve God and the Devil… Because, let’s face it, that would be just too obvious and a waste of breath—for no one ever loves the Devil! The Devil, we imagine, is a monstrous, hideous creature, at the sight of whom we would cringe in terror, or faint away at the very ugliness of him. No temptations there. Shall I love God or the Devil? Let me think about that one… No, mammon is decidedly not simply “The Devil.”
It is rather something which does entice us, something which attracts us greatly. Something, in fact, that we must constantly struggle to avoid being drawn to like iron filings to a magnet, or like flies to a dunghill. For mammon, my dear faithful, is a word that signifies “The World”, or “the Flesh”. It covers a whole wealth of what, when you get right down to it, is nothing but Vanity. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities and all is vanity”. These are the words of Solomon writing in the Book of Ecclesiastes.
What is there about the World and the Flesh that attracts us so much? It is not simply that they give pleasure—Our Lord touches upon the pleasures of eating and drinking, of wearing fine clothes, of simply caring too much about the things of this world that give us pleasure. The temptations of the world can be far more dangerous, far more difficult to see, than simply the temptation to please oneself. Very often we are lulled into thinking that by giving in to such a temptation is nothing other than the great virtue of Charity! Why? Because we are trying to please, not ourselves, but others. It is, in fact, the deadly and deceptive trap of “Human Respect”.
Human Respect—what is it? It is a sin which wields a greater power over man’s free will and personal liberty than all forces. It is a sin which is so prevalent today, so common even amongst Catholics. It is a false fear. A false shame which prompts people to act against the dictates of their conscience, and to respect human beings more than God. Hence its name, Human Respect. “What will people say?” This little question, this thought, terrifies some people more than the thought: “God sees me”.
Our Lord and Saviour preached against human respect in his time and day: “Whosoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and of the holy angels.
Christ has no use for half-Christians, for timid and lukewarm souls. He condemns the reed shaken by the wind. He has a heart even for the most obstinate sinner, but not for human respect. If we are not with him, he says, we are against him. He recognizes us as his disciples, if we profess openly that we are his. And he will exclude us from his kingdom if we blush to be called his followers.
“Fear of men driveth away the fear of God” says the Sacred Text. Aaron of old assisted the children of Israel in making a molten calf in order not to displease them. King Herod was willing to behead St. John the Baptist in order to please the dancing maiden. St. Peter also committed the sin of human respect through fear of being apprehended. When the servant of one of the high priests approached him and said he was one of Christ’s disciples, from fear and shame he denied it—denied that he was a Christian, denied his Lord and Master. Pontius Pilate was the victim of, and a slave to human respect. He had openly declared the innocence of Our Lord. Yet, when the Jews criticized and threatened him, saying: “if you let this man free, you shall no longer be a friend of Caesar’s,” he yielded, and first scourged our Lord, and finally condemned him to death.
My dear faithful, listen not to the voice of the crowd. Pay no attention to those who would condemn us for being “against the Pope”, “schismatics” or defilers of Christ’s Mystical Body. Heed not those who call us calumniators or detractors because we speak out the truth and stand up for what is right and just. Don’t listen to the world! Turn your ear instead to the voice of your conscience.
This is the voice that God has placed in our hearts to guide us, to direct us, to help us save our soul. You hear it in the moment you do wrong. You hear its quiet voice even when the multitudes are screaming for the opposite. You hear it even louder after the wicked deed.
Adam and Eve hid in the Garden of Eden after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Cain killed his brother Abel and fled. They didn’t want to hear the voice of their conscience, but in vain. God is that voice. And in both cases, God caught up with the perpetrators and punished them accordingly. Judas tried to silence the voice of his conscience too, but he did not succeed and finally, despairing, he hanged himself. Martin Luther in his last hour threw an ink-pot at the devil. And Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the First in her dying moments saw all the priests and religious and people she had murdered. Their conscience bothered them. It became so loud, so real, that they began to see their truly wicked deeds as they really were.
Obey your conscience then, and not the voice of the crowd, the world. These crowds will not be there to support you when you stand before the judgment seat of God. Numbers do not count with God. Something is right NOT because the majority decide that it is right, but because it is according to the will of God.
This is the spiritual warfare of the Christian—loving God and fighting against mammon, the world, the flesh. In the book of Job, we are told that “the life of man upon earth is a warfare.” (Job, 7 : 1). It’s a perpetual warfare that goes on from the cradle to the grave, from the use of reason to our death bed, and we cannot escape the battle. It is warfare of two irreconcilable enemies. “What fellowship is there between light and darkness?” God and mammon each claim the whole of men’s service, and are impatient of interference. God requires our “whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, our whole strength”. So, too, does the world.
Our Lord did not mention the devil. Too obvious as we pointed out. But think about it: who is the Lord of the World but the very Prince of Darkness and Satan? So in the end, the choice is the same, God or mammon, God or the world, God or Satan. And if we forget this warfare, we are lost.
Nor can we be neutral in the battle. Remember, “He who is not with me is against me.” You must make the choice of God over mammon. You must choose the part of the Lord. When the enemies of our religion, of our faith, or of our church, attack, where are we? We say the words that we are on the side of Christ. We mouth very nice words from the psalms: “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and my cup.” But where are we on the battlefront? Hiding behind a fence? A fence of neutrality. Suddenly blathering idiotic platitudes of “tolerance and forbearance”? Attacking our own generals for being too fierce in their defence of the Truth, moaning and whining like lily-livered cowards, filled with indignation about ill-conceived notions of calumny and detraction? Why are we so slow to march into battle? Because it involves defying and attacking the enemy, resisting the devil, going against the world, casting down idols, and cutting down the mitred and birettaed battalions of those who would attack the kingdom of God and the true apostolate of his priests. Do we have the courage for this? For this is the very heart of the warfare to which we are called.
“I have fought the good fight”, says Saint Paul. Can we say this? What are the marks of our contest? Where are our battle scars? What have we done, what are we going to do, to deserve the name of fighting?
My dear faithful, you must use the weapons that God has given us for this fight. And then you must fight the way God wants you to fight. Pay very close attention to the following words of Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians: They tell us exactly what must be our method of waging war on those who would harm the work we try and do for God: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
May we be ever helped by the Blessed Virgin Mary in this our battle. She who is the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the great rejoicing of our nation, who hath done manfully. She who is fair and comely, yea and yet terrible as an army with banners set forth in battle array.
Fight the good fight! Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.