Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost—25 August A.D. 2013



Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

“The world with its lust is passing away,
but he who does the will of God abides forever.”[1]

    Those words are from Saint John's first Epistle.  And with them, he is telling us that the material life is transient ... insignificant ... not important—but that, on the other hand, the spiritual life endures forever, and is all that really matters;  that we should put some real effort into living the spiritual life.

    Now, there are many things that should be done to develop in the spiritual life, but before any of them can begin in earnest we must begin to free ourselves from attachments to the material life.

    Saint John further tells us that “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him ... all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life ... these are not from the Father, but from the world.”[2]   Given Saint John's enumeration, there are then three material affections that must be overcome in order to progress in the spiritual life:

    There is, first of all, “the lust of the flesh”; the things spoken about in today's epistle:  immodesty, wrath, murder, quarrels, wild parties, and such like.[3]   These are pretty obvious, and most people know if they have a problem with one or more of them.

    St. John speaks of what he calls “the pride of life,” which is simply the lack of the humility that is demanded by the Gospels.  Think back to the Gospel of the Pharisee and the Publican, or to the parable about those who seek the first place at table when invited to a dinner    “those who exalt themselves shall be humbled.”[4]

    Finally, he speaks about what he calls “the lust of the eyes,” or an inordinate desire to possess material goods and property.  It also refers to the jealousy that results from wanting things that we are unable to have    especially when we see that our neighbors have them.

    We hear about pride and humility, and the fight against bodily lust, on other Sundays.  Today, the Gospel is directing us to look at the idea of wealth and the attitude we should have toward it.   Our Lord's point today is that we cannot serve two masters.  “Mammon,” in the language of the Jews, means “riches.”  He is telling us that if we are to serve Him, we cannot be a servant to riches.

    Our Lord is not proposing some sort of utopian socialism; not calling us to live as the “flower children” of the 1960s—the so-called “hippies.”  The appeal to the “lilies of the field” is at least somewhat allegorical.  The language of the Jews often required exaggeration to make a point—hyperbole, we call it.  But He is telling us to put wealth and the use of material goods into proper perspective.

    Money can be used for great good:  to feed the poor and care for the sick;  to defend the weak against oppressors;  to spread the word of the Gospel;  to build beautiful churches for the honor of God.

    But we are not to be servants of the dollar.  Rather, the dollar is to serve our needs.  There is something obviously wrong with the person whose main interest is in accumulating money for its own sake.  This is simply a practical truth.  Money has no value in itself—more and more, it is just an entry in a ledger in the bank's computer.  And great evil is caused when the people ignore the real things in life, concentrating on money, or on complaining that they don't have enough.

    Our Lord is telling us not to allow ourselves to be weighed down by the non-essential things of the material world—particularly when they keep us from rising to the level of the spiritual things in life.  As God who became man, Jesus Christ could have been born into the family of the wealthiest king on earth—instead he chose to be born into the house of a humble carpenter who lived in the backwoods of Israel.  We are always wise to imitate Christ.

    September is the month of the Holy Cross, a symbol of self-abnegation, of renunciation of the allurements of the world, of refusal to be weighed down by unnecessary material constraints.  In monasteries and some religious communities, the feast of the Holy Cross on the 14th of the coming month of September is the beginning of a fast very much like that of Lent—an Advent fast, if you will that lasts up until Christmas day.

    Even if such a fast is not part of our life, we ought still to incorporate some of the elements of the penitential season in our lives throughout the year:  prayer, fasting, penance, mortification, almsgiving:  all of these things have something in common—they help us to make use of our material resources in such a way as to rise to the spiritual life.  We must make frequent and regular use of them—all throughout the year.

    Above all, let us allow today's readings to remind us that our hearts must be directed to the things of God, not bound by attachment to the things of earth.  “Do not be anxious.  Your Father knows that you need these things.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be given you beside.”[5]


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