8th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Is 49:14-15; Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Mt 6:24-34
(Scriptures included after homily)
Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to preach on the Feast day of The Chair of St. Peter. And I think we all recognize that we were not celebrating a piece of furniture, but the person of St. Peter, and his influence in our Church as its second leader, after Jesus.
And, of course, we also remember the subsequent leadership of another 265 successive Popes and Bishops who followed in Peter’s footsteps. We call this lineage of Church leadership – Apostolic Succession. So it’s no surprise that we should recognize our Popes with a Feast Day, just as we recognize our presidents.
But the reason I mention this, is that in my internet research on the Feast Day of the Chair, I was actually led TO a particular piece of furniture that’s called “The Chair of St. Peter,” or the Cathedra Petri, which resides in the Basilica of St. Peter, in Vatican City.
And for me, it wasn’t the 17th century artistic skill of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who created that magnificent monument of a Chair; nor was it the alabaster window behind it, depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove, that struck me; because I had seen pictures of these masterpieces many times before.
But this time – what struck me was the ENORMITY of that hundred-foot tall monument, almost 3-times the height of the highest point in our Church.
And it was the incredible immensity of that 450-foot tall dome in the Basilica, which, by the way, is the tallest dome in the world, that had me in total AWE.
Now, we might be thinking, “Yeah, but what about all that stuff that Jesus just said about not serving two masters, God and mammon?” “Isn’t all that exorbitant architecture a bit heavy on the mammon side?”
And some of us might actually feel that it is! But when we think about the 7-million Catholics, Christians and non-Christians who visit that holy Shrine to our God, within a year, there have to be at least some people, who are inspired enough to think about God, to think about Jesus, a little more than they had ever done before.
And there may even be some new converts to the Faith, every day, all because of that exorbitant architecture.
You see, God has the ability to use all kinds of mammon to bring us closer to Him. Unfortunately, Satan can use the same mammon to separate us from God, and from one another if we’re not careful.
And that’s why we have our Church. And that’s why we have our community: to learn from, to support one another, and to grow ever-closer to God.
So now let’s come back home (wherever that may be) and consider the condition of our own Souls, in relation to mammon, worry and God.
You see, here we are, just a few days away from the first day of Lent, 2017. Remember all that stuff about Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving? Well, here we go again!
The question IS: What are we going to do THIS year, that’s any different from what we’ve ever done before? How are we going to improve our Service to God, when all that mammon around us is screaming for our attention? And it’s not the mammon of statues and rosaries, of stained glass windows and altars, that’s pulling us away from God.
Maybe it’s food. Or maybe it’s our work. Maybe it’s our infatuation with sports, or clothes, or cars, or appearances. Or, yes, it might even be, for some of us, too much Church stuff.
But we’ve got – just 2-1/2 days to figure it out.
And right off the bat, we might be wondering, “Where do I even start?”
Well, a good – first place to start, is always Prayer!
But then we might complain, “Where and when am I supposed to find time for that?”
Well maybe, for 2-1/2 days, we don’t bring our smart-phone into the bathroom or the car, and we PRAY instead.
“But How do I pray?” you ask.
“I don’t even know where to begin.”
Well, we can start by asking ourselves a few simple questions. Like, “What is it in my life that’s keeping me from having a closer relationship with God?”
Maybe we feel that the Church is just too demanding.
We hear comments like, “Those Church people are always telling us not to sin. But we don’t even know what sin is.” And then we hear, “that Church is always making us feel so guilty.” “And then there’s all that stuff about eternal damnation.” “And they’re constantly asking us for more time and money, and we don’t have either one to give.”
Well, you know what, brothers and sisters, maybe that’s ALL a great place to start with our prayer!
And then, there are some of us who might feel that our Church is just too complicated.
Why! There’s all that – Liturgy, and the Saints, the Catechism and the Bible Studies. There’s the Organization and the Hierarchy of the Church, all those Activities, Theology and Sacraments, History, Mariology, Vatican II and Religious Orders. There’s Prayer and Rosary, Stations of the Cross and Adoration.
And then there’s all those Liturgical Seasons and Feasts and Memorials.
“Where do we even start???”
Well, maybe that’s another great place to continue with our prayer!
Or perhaps, on the other hand, some of us might feel that our Church, our Faith, is just too boring.
Well, you know what? Sometimes it’s a lot easier to judge and condemn the temperature of the water without ever, actually, dipping our toes in it!
If this is us, maybe it’s a good time to Pray for a little more courage and a little more wisdom!
You see, just like the enormity of that Basilica in Rome, God has given us an enormity of diverse ways to come closer to Him. And ALL we have to do is Choose ONE, this Lent!
Take one little step at a time, brothers and sisters, to replace our infatuation over mammon, with a Love for God.
Look for new ways to improve our relationship with God by increasing our Knowledge and our Action . . .
Cleanse our hearts from the mammon of laziness, pride, excuses and materialism . . .
And KNOW, all along, that the Holy Spirit is right there to help us, just for the asking!
And then, after we make that Choice;
In 2-1/2 days, we’ll set our focus like flint to the grindstone, knowing that the Sparks will fly and the Fire within us will grow.
And then, we can follow the rest of Lent in the footsteps of Jesus:
- On the first Sunday, just as Jesus was tempted in the desert, we can be sure that we will be tempted as well. And yet, Jesus tells us that our Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need before we even ask. So we Persevere, and we Fast, by giving-up all of our Worries.
- On the second Sunday, just as Jesus was Transfigured, we will find that beyond the low-points of our Lenten journey, there will be Highs as well. So, we stay on-Guard, not allowing the pride of accomplishment to lead us off-track.
- On the third Sunday, we come back to the well, where Jesus will Refresh us, just as he did with the Samaritan woman. This is the Eucharistic well of Life; the well of Thanksgiving, that we can come back to every-day of the week, if we so desire.
- On the fourth Sunday, we open our eyes, just like the man who was born-blind. And we Rejoice, because we can SEE – that the End is in sight . . . Or maybe it’s just the Beginning of something even greater!
- On the fifth Sunday, we let Jesus Raise us to new life, just as He did with Lazarus. And we find ourselves closer to God than we’ve ever been before . . . knowing that His Passion and His Resurrection are just around the corner.
It’s a challenging, but a Glorious Journey!
The Psalmist tells us that: Only in God is my soul at rest. He is our Hope and our Salvation. He is our Stronghold, our Refuge and our Rock.
If we can enter this Lent, letting go of some of the mammon that’s blocking the growth of our relationship with God, Jesus promises to FILL the enormous cavity in our hearts with a Love SO great, that we can’t even begin to fathom its magnificent immensity.
But we can be sure that the world around us will certainly know us by that love!
Scripture Readings for the Mass of 02-26-17
Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, A
First Reading: Is 49:14-15
Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my LORD has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God is my soul at rest; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God be at rest, my soul, for from him comes my hope. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
With God is my safety and my glory, he is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before him.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
Second Reading: 1 Cor 4:1-5
Brothers and sisters: Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.
Gospel: Mt 6:24-34
Jesus said to his disciples: “No one 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.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
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