YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: THE MAN OF GOD AND THE GOD OF MAMMON
BY: REV FR ANSELM CHIGOZIE AMADI
WIS 7:7-11, HEB. 4:12-13, MK 10:17-30
There is a raging conflict in the minds of men between the eternal and immediate values, between the spiritual and the material. True wisdom resides in seeing beyond the apparent to the reality, going beyond shadows to the substance, and investing on the most durable : the eternal values.
SOMETHING MORE THAN GOLD
The author wisdom literature compared wisdom with the greatest of worldly goods and values and found them less than thrash (wis 7:8-10). All of them, scepter and throne, gold and silver, health and beauty, are nothing when compared with wisdom, which consists in fear and knowledge of the Lord (prov 9:10). “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”. St. Paul, having experienced the Supreme good counted every worldly treasure as nothing (Phil 3:8). This is the Supreme law and that, ‘we must do to inherit eternal life’.
“YOU KNOW THE COMMANDMENTS”
To the the man who asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life”, Jesus said, “you know the commandments”. Every Israelite knows and recites the commandments which is captured in the great ‘Shama’ (Deut.6:4f).
“Hear oh Israel,… You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind…” This, according to Jesus, is the first and the greatest commandment ( Matt 22:38).
The love of God does not admit of any rivalry. It is only God or never. This is why God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only beloved son, Isaac. It was not to annihilate the young lad but to dethrone the excessive love Isaac commands in Abraham’s heart. When Abraham moved to sacrifice Isaac, he dethroned the love for him and enthroned the unrivaled love of God. As a jealous God he is, God
gave it as a supreme law to Israel and demands that from all as a precondition to eternal life.
St. Francis de Sales underlines the attitude of the three Kings from the east, as a shining example of love of God. They found pleasure neither in the beauty of the city of Jerusalem, nor magnificence of Herod’s Palace, but their hearts were instead set on the little cave of Bethlehem and its little child. In the same manner, when Magdalen, that glorious lover, met the angels at the tomb, on that resurrection morning, she could not take joy in their gentle words, the splendor of their garments, the most celestial grace of their appearance or the lovely beauty of their faces, but was bent on searching for her crucified Lord. (cf Treatise on Divine Love Bk.5 ,ch. 7). Those are in simple terms what it means to love God with all our hearts. Nothing, even angelic beings can compete with God in our hearts.
The heart is the seat of love and of true worship. Hence, the prophet warns against the contrary, “these people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me…” (Is 29:13). This is why Jesus insists that true worshippers must worship in spirit and truth. When the young man claimed he has kept all the commandments, Jesus gazed a piercing look at him, because, “the Lord looks into the heart” (1Sam.16:7), and saw that he was a righteous idol worshipper.
His god was mammon. He did not “know the commandments”.
“I HAVE KEPT ALL THESE… ”
The young man who claims to have kept all the commandments in fact was guilty of its intirety. Far from serving the true God, he paid unrivaled allegiance to mammon, the god of wealth. “No one can serve two masters at a time, you can not serve both God and mammon” (Mat 16:13). By his preference of wealth over God, he broke the very first commandment: You shall have no other gods beside me (Ex. 20:3). Again, by his inner disposition, which smarks of covetousness, he was guilty of the last commandment: Thou shall not covet…. (Ex 20:17). He was indeed guilty of all since the love of money is the root of all evil (1Tim 6:10).
The great lesson is to beware of hidden idols in life. Until these idols are discovered and uprooted, our religious practices will only be superficial and unrewarding. Such idols can be in the guise of power, (as recorded in the first reading) riches and ego. They can also be in form of persons in our lives.
When Jesus speaks about the tragedy of the rich, he means idolatry in the sense of the above context. It is not without reason that the Ark of the Covenant was hollow and unoccupied except by the tablet of stone on which the Word was inscribed and the loaf of manna. Both speak of the Word. The Word took flesh and became our bread of life. This shows how God wants the hearts of the faithful to be, only for the Word, “and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The rich are those whose hearts are crowded with hoards of material possession. No wonder the Lord says “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). The rich in spirit share a contrary fate.
To know God is to love him above all else. To love him is to sacrifice everything we are and have for him. In sacrifice lies the true sense of worship, namely, spiritual worship. Material things, since they are created by God are good (Gen 1:31), possession of them is favor, but their possession of us is evil. It is, therefore, a crime against God to make a demon out of his beautiful gifts. Let us free our hearts of undue attachments.