Mammon

dollarIt’s a blessing that I can say these words: I have never been destitute. It’s true when my first husband and I were newly married, we were pretty darn broke. Food stamps broke. We lived in married student housing, and both of us worked while we went to school. When we graduated, we moved to Denver and I got a job as a newspaper reporter earning a whopping $600 a month. This isn’t some number that translated into today’s dollars would equal $5,000 a month. It was a pittance then as well as now. My husband worked too, but he made less money than I. Like I said, broke.

But we always knew we had a parachute. If things got too bad, we had options. Family who would help us out. No kids, so we could get second jobs. College degrees that would allow us to eventually make more money.

It’s true that for most of my adult life, however, I haven’t been poor. I’ve never been a millionaire, but I have never really had to count pennies. There have been times when my income has been healthier than other times, but always comfortable.

I just got done reading a book with a plot that centered around people who are wealthy. Donald Trump wealthy. Owned a private jet and houses all over the world wealthy. The point of the book I think was that you don’t have to be billionaires to be happy. Though I don’t think this particular book did a very good job of illustrating this fact since the supporting characters, while not billionaires, were quite wealthy themselves. Still, the point is well taken. Money doesn’t buy happiness.

And yet many of us think about money all of the time, deeply envious of our friends and neighbors who have more than we. I get up every morning and instead of being thankful for the mortgage-free roof over my head, I instead look down and think about how hideous my carpet is. I’m not alone; we all do it from time to time I’m afraid.

In the Gospel of St. Luke this past weekend, Jesus tells his apostles, “No servant 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 both God and mammon.”

The use of the word mammon is interesting. I admit that I had to look it up. I’ve probably heard this gospel a hundred times over my life, but I never thought about what the word means. I guess I just thought this was another way of saying that it’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into heaven. But mammon isn’t just wealth, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It is wealth that has an evil influence. Wealth that leads us astray, I guess.

Back to the book I just finished. In that book, the man who had nearly limitless money thought that he always needed the next thing to be truly happy. The next mistress. The next shady deal that would bring in more money. The next house on the Riviera. But it never worked because at the end of the day, mammon didn’t make him happy; instead, it was the people he loved who made him happy and not the things he bought.

And our homilist took this away from the gospel: if only we would work as hard at prayer or helping others as we do at making money, we could be truly happy.

All this isn’t to say, however, that I’m not going to replace my ugly carpet!

Division

imgres“It kind of sounds like some of your Thanksgiving dinners, doesn’t it?” Monsignor Fryer said in his opening remarks about this past weekend’s gospel reading from St. Luke.

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

Every time I hear that gospel reading I think, wow, that doesn’t sound like the let-there-be-peace-on-earth Lord and Savior with whom I’m familiar. What’s up with that?

I have always justified Jesus’ words, according to St. Luke, as his reminding us that he came to earth not to just make the people feel good. He came to SHAKE THINGS UP. He came to encourage people to break out of the status quo. His aim was to make people feel uncomfortable and to stand up for their faith and their belief in God despite their discomfort. It isn’t enough to simply follow the Ten Commandments, he said to his followers. You have to leave your comfort zone and work hard for what God teaches and what you believe.

Msgr. Fryer took my thoughts  a bit further, and applied Jesus’ teachings to today’s world. Today’s world, where people are sort of forgetting about faith in God and the teachings of Jesus. Today’s  world where it seems like the further people get from God, the more messed up things get.

Jesus preached to his followers that it was their responsibility to preach his word to the world, even if it meant that they were going against the beliefs of their friends and family. And Jesus tells us to do the same thing. Stand up for God’s word. Fight for what you believe is right and for the will of God. In this day and age where people seem to believe that anything goes if it feels right to you, standing up for God’s word is even more important. And often more difficult.

There’s no question that very often being a Christian puts you in a position where you get push-back. As people grow further and further away from God, it becomes more difficult to stand up for what you believe. Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth, said Jesus.

Bill and I talked about the gospel and about the homily after church. We talked about how every day we hear from our friends and co-workers and television and social media that we have to be tolerant and accept everyone’s beliefs because it is the right thing to do. But very often the so-called tolerance seems to only goes in one direction. We are expected to support everyone’s beliefs, but that support doesn’t seem to have to go both ways.

I think that’s the very thing about which Jesus was speaking. It doesn’t matter if you get push-back. Stand up for what you believe is right. And don’t judge others. Challenge, don’t judge.

And PEOPLE! Love your mother-in-law, no matter what!

Silence is Golden

imagesMondays are often the day of the week that I expound to you about the wonderful words I heard yesterday in the Mass readings, and pretend that I have any right to try and explain them to you. I would love to do that today except I can’t because for the most part, I wasn’t listening.

Oh, I read along with the Old Testament reading from Zechariah, and nodded thoughtfully at St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians in which he told us all people who believe in Christ are the same, be they Jew or Gentile, male or female, man or woman, all of which was a great relief to me. I even took note of St. Luke’s Gospel in which Jesus asked his friends, who do they say I am, and then told them to keep their mouths shut when they said they think he is the chosen Christ, because no one would understand anyway.

But the reason I wasn’t listening was because somewhere around the time of the Gospel reading, I noticed that the three young teenaged boys who were the servers for the Mass all looked exactly alike. Brothers, little doubt, triplets, almost certainly. Triplet teenaged boys. Can you imagine?

And then, because I’m me, I began trying to figure out which of the people in the congregation were their parents. Father Larry is trying to save my soul by preaching a brilliant homily, and I’m secretly gooning around trying to figure out just who are the parents of these three remarkable young men.

Sometime towards the end of the Mass I said to myself, by Jove, I think I’ve got it! (I know I am watching too many PBS Masterpiece Mysteries when I start saying things like by Jove, even if it’s to myself.) It was the couple sitting next to me, who, by the way,had three children sitting with them. How did I come to that conclusion? First, parents of the children serving Mass always sit in the front of the church so that they can have a full view of their child/server. We were sitting in the second pew from the front. Second, the three children sitting between the man and woman looked exactly like the three boys on the altar except younger.

Eureka! I could be a great detective, like Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Gadget.

But of course I couldn’t be absolutely sure, and that made me concentrate on the Mass even less. Because I began thinking that I wanted to ask the woman who was sitting right beside me if she was the mother of the three boys and if they were, in fact, triplets. Questions all of which were none of my business. Which is exactly what I was fearful she would say to me.

I am the Queen of Striking Up Conversations With Total Strangers. And quite frankly, much of the time, it doesn’t go well. There is, of course, the time when we were on the cruise ship on the way to Europe and I said to the woman standing behind me in the buffet line, “Have you ever seen so much food in your life?” She answered, “I can’t see the food at all because I’m blind.” I’m not making this up.

And there was the time more recently when I was observing Kaiya and Mylee playing on the playground of McDonalds. I noticed that despite the fact that none of the kids had ever seen each other before, they were all playing together as if they were long-time friends. The grandfather – or at least who I assume was the grandfather – of one of the children was sitting next to me. I said to him in a friendly way, “Wouldn’t our life be better if our children ran the world?”

“Not hardly,” he answered back, quite grouchily, and resumed eating his Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

Alrighty then.

So despite the fact that I was absolutely DYING to ask the woman if she was the mother of the three boys, I had to remind myself of several things. First of all, I was only PRESUMING they were brothers, much less triplets; I had no verification of that fact. Second of all, since I had not been paying attention to the family next to me until I became so interested in learning these boys’ parentage, I had no proof that she was even with the man and the three children sitting next to her. I could just imagine me asking the question only to have her break into tears and say that she is unable to have children and it’s destroyed her life.

I refrained from asking the question, but haven’t been able to get the boys out of my mind.

By the way, in my defense, I did hear the part of the gospel in which Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” It made me wonder why we humans are always asking why bad things happen to good people. The answer is simple: we must take up the crosses we face every single day of our life. It’s what Jesus asks us to do.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Forgiveness

davidcap-blogSpanI always think that when priests and/or other homilists see that the readings from the upcoming Mass include St. Paul’s instruction to women that they should be submissive to their husbands, they must simply groan. Because no matter how the homilist couches St. Paul’s words, it doesn’t lessen the blow to the wives sitting in the congregation. Yes, while it’s true that the words following his suggestion of submission instruct the husband to love his wife, it always seems like the words not added are ….even if they aren’t submitting to you like they are supposed to. Oh, Paul.

On the other hand, priests and/or deacons must have felt like they got a soft pitch when they saw the readings for Sunday’s Mass. God’s abundant love and never-ending forgiveness? Su-weeeeeeet.

Being the brilliant biblical scholar that I am, I must admit that I always get a bit tired of hearing about David, God’s chosen king of the Jews. Such a goody-goody. He could defeat a giant with a mere slingshot and write poetry and play a mean lyre afterwards. He was the Israelites’ favorite and he was God’s favorite.

So I must admit that I am always kind of glad to hear the story of Bathsheba, when David really, really screwed up. I always like a good Walks-On-Water-Guy-Goes-Bad story. Plus, since slaying a giant with a rock seems like such an unobtainable goal, it’s kind of nice to see that David can sin with the best of us. He broke a handful of God’s Ten Commandments in one fell swoop.

In the Second Book of Samuel (part of which was our first reading at Mass), the prophet Nathan assured David that despite his grave sin, God forgave him. But before he assured David that he was forgiven, he told him the parable of the rich guy who had everything, but nevertheless chose to steal the lamb from the poor man who had nothing else in order to feed a visitor. And what does David say? Why, the nerve of that selfish man! And then Nathan tells him, “David, YOU are this man.”

Oops. Who, me? Gulp.

And our gospel reading from St. Luke was the story of Jesus having dinner with the Pharisee only to be interrupted by the woman known far and wide to be a sinner. She has the nerve – the NERVE I tell you – to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. When his host questions Jesus’ willingness to be in the company of a sinner, Jesus asks him a question which is so reminiscent of Nathan’s parable – who would be more grateful to have a debt forgiven, someone who owed 500 days’ wages or someone who owed 50 days’ wages.

The answer is simple, of course. The man who owes more.

God’s love for us is endless and he forgives us, no matter how badly we sin. That’s the truth that both David and the sinning woman knew. They were forgiven. And that’s good news for sinners like me.

God only asks one thing in return – that we forgive others, just as he forgives us. This message of forgiveness is so beautiful that the homilies must write themselves!

This post linked to the GRAND Social