25th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”  Mammon is a funny word.  You tell it is difficult because they did not try to translate it.  It is a Greek word adopted from a similar Hebrew and Aramaic word and then dropped into English as is.  We don’t have a word to express what it means.  It is that which you place your trust in or give allegiance to.  In other words, mammon wants to be treated like God.  That is why Jesus speaks of mammon as a false God.  You have to choose God or mammon.

Sometimes money is depicted as mammon, but that is not quite right.  It is rather a symptom of mammon.  Money demands our attention and its pursuit takes up much of our time.  It is very important, yet when it becomes our main priority, it becomes mammon.  As a matter of fact, the motto on our money, “In God we trust” is telling us to look somewhere else for your security.

We might all have different mammons:  money, loneliness, hurt, failure, but they all coalesce around one word – fear.  We are afraid that we will not have enough.  We are afraid that we cannot provide, protect or defend those we love.  We are afraid that no one will love us back.  We are afraid that we do not hold a place in the world or our lives have no meaning.  So our identity we choose is not as a child of the light, but as a son or daughter of fear.  But “perfect love drives out fear.”  (1John 4:18) The perfect love of God and fear cannot occupy the same space.

You are here because you have chosen God over mammon.  You might be glad to know that I have too.  I pay my bill to Jesus.  But I must admit that I too often leave my tip to mammon.

I think it is important that we name our mammon because it tends to sneak up on us until it predominates in our lives.  You can tell it is your mammon because it is the thing that stops you from sleeping at night, or which wakes you up with a start at let’s say exactly 2:48 in the morning.  My mammon is our parish right now.  It is the consistently lower collections, the empty seats, the faces I used to see all the time and now miss so much.  I can’t stand the idea that perhaps this place might not look the same as it does now.

But when my mind is clear and my prayer is right, I know better.  I know that no fear, no boogey man of my own creation, can match the words that come from the mouth of the Lord.  I know there is nothing so powerful as receiving the body and blood of Jesus.  I know of nothing more beautiful than seeing the reflection of God in every face whenever I have the grace to seek it.  I have been awed by the love shared in support of those who mourn, in the promise of two young people saying yes to a life together, in the baptism of a child given the startling promise to be one with Christ.  I have been saved by the love of the God who become human and gave his life for us and invested it with meaning.  Oh in those moment fear does not dare raise its head and mammon is defeated by the goodness, the holiness and love of God and God’s people.

We have a choice between God and fear, between Christ and mammon.  For the sake of beauty, truth and peace; for the sake of our humanity and our sanity, choose God.