September 18, 2022: Homily- 25 Sunday in Ordinary Time

“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

There are some verses in Scripture that have a kind of majesty to them.  They sound important.  They sound forceful.  They sound authentic.  And they sound like they are being spoken by (or written by) someone of great authority.

 “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Can you feel it?  Can you feel the importance of those words?  Maybe you can even almost “hear” some sort of loud, booming voice from the heavens proclaiming them.  Or maybe you can visualize Jesus saying these words to his disciples – saying them with conviction and seriousness and in a profound sort of way.  Whatever Jesus was saying to his followers two thousand years ago he is almost certainly saying to us too today.  And so we better pay attention, lest we miss something of great importance.  These words are clearly not a suggestion.  Rather, they are a declaration – reflecting a deep truth – a truth revealing a reality facing each of us (and every other human being in every time and place).

Put simply – we can’t serve two masters.

And most of us have no problem giving our assent to those words, our emphatic “Amen!”  We wouldn’t be here this day if we didn’t want to serve God, want to fulfill whatever he is inviting / asking / demanding of you and me.  And most of us can kind of understand that two things can’t rest atop our hierarchy of priorities.  One thing, one person, one Divine Reality needs to “win” each time our wants or desires come into conflict with whatever it is that God wants from us.

We call this, “Trying to Do God’s Will”.

So far so good.  But how do we do that?   Seriously.  What does that even mean?  And how are we to go about “figuring it out”?   I want to do God’s will.  You want to do God’s will.  And we’ve prayed a thousand times, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . .”  But what exactly does it mean to “do God’s will”?

Well, I don’t mean to disappoint you – but we’ll never be able to fully explain the answer to that question.  That would mean that we would need to somehow fully understand the mind of God.  That’s kooky talk!  God is God and unfortunately, we are not.  Truthfully, it might actually be easier to get at this problem by discussing what “figuring out God’s will” is not.

My guess is that too often we think of God’s will as being God’s desire for all sorts of very particular things for our lives.  God wants me to have a particular career.  God wants me to live on a particular block so that I meet particular people who will become my friends (or maybe even my spouse).  God wants my children to go to particular schools and get into particular colleges.  God wants my parents to live in a particular retirement home or live with a particular member of the family.  God wants me to give a particular amount of money to particular charities.  You get the idea.

And while stringing all those examples together might look a little ridiculous on the surface, I am convinced that we often think of God’s will in those terms.  And implicit in that sort of thinking is the fear that if we don’t make all the right decisions in all areas of our lives, we are somehow not pleasing God, somehow not fulfilling his “plan” for us, someone destined to live a life less than what it could have been if we had just done a better job of figuring it out.  And I don’t know about you, but that sounds impossible.  How can we possibly get all of that right, be confident that we are making all the right choices?

Well, we can’t.  Not with certainty.  And so, what do we often do?  We kind of stop trying, stop truly attempting to discern God’s will amidst a sea of difficult choices.  It’s as if, since we can’t figure it ALL out, we kind of give up – kind of stop considering where God fits into the countless decisions we make throughout a lifetime.

But I think that’s because we are under the illusion that God wants all these SPECIFIC things, and that God will be ‘unhappy” or “disappointed” in us if we choose something other than what he wants for us.  But what if, regarding many life decisions, God doesn’t really have one singular specific hope for each decision, but rather has a broader, more all-encompassing hope for his beloved daughters and sons?  What if God isn’t really as concerned precisely with the “what” as much as we think he is?  What if he is much more concerned with the “who”?

Who does God want me to be?

Am I making choices in life that reflect the man or woman God is calling me to be?

Can I make a given choice and remain a loving, kind, generous, merciful person?

Can I keep living an authentic life even when I can never be sure if I’ve chosen correctly?

My dear friends, those are the vital questions – things that help ensure that we are on the right path.  Those are the things that ultimately please God, each time a man or woman embraces the person God has called him or her to be.  That’s how we can be confident that we’re not serving two masters.  That’s doing God’s will – being a God-like person.  And we can be that person in every situation, and in the midst of all sorts of different choices.

Father Boat

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