8th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“No one can serve two masters … you cannot serve God and mammon.”  The lesson that Our Lord teaches us in today’s Gospel is quite clear: God must have the first place in our hearts and in our lives.  This Gospel passage does not mean that we can neglect this world or that the things of this world are evil in themselves.  God created everything and what He created is good; it is the inordinate attachment to the things of this world that is sinful.  Being overly attached to the things of this world is sinful not because God doesn’t want us to have good things; it is sinful because to love things above God or our neighbors is contrary to the way that God created us.  God created us in His own image and likeness; we were created for love; we were created for communion: communion with God and communion with other people.  We can enjoy the good things of this world, but we must not put them above God or above our neighbor.

In the parable that Jesus tells about the rich man and Lazarus the poor beggar, the rich man does not go to the place of torment because he is rich: he loses Heaven because he ignored his needy neighbor: he lacked charity.  Jesus Christ gave us two commandments: love God above everything and love your neighbor as yourself.

When we put the things of this world ahead of God and neighbor we fall into sin.  When we fail in charity, we fail to live the way that God created us.  We were not made for this world: this world was made for us.  We were made for God: we were made to know Him and to love Him; we were made to be united with God forever in Heaven.  We were made for love; if we fail to show charity to our neighbor, Jesus tells us that we fail to show charity to Him: “what you have done to the least of My brothers,” he says, “you have done unto Me.”  If we become overly attached to the things of this world, we forget that our purpose and our destiny are much greater.  All the good things in this world pale in comparison to the glory that awaits us in Heaven.  The whole world is not enough to satisfy our hearts because our hearts were made for God, Who IS infinite.  Our hearts were made for love.  When we turn in on ourselves and live in a selfish way, we make ourselves unhappy.

The temptation to put the things of this world ahead of God or neighbor is a temptation to settle for less.  Temptation is always a lie.  The lie, in this case, is that if we just had more we would be happy.  Temptation tells us that if we put ourselves and our own desires ahead of God and others we will find happiness.  Our experience teaches us that temptation is a lie.  When we have more, we want more still.  When we live for the things of this world, we are never satisfied.  When we put ourselves first, we push others away and damage our relationships with them.  When we sin, we damage our relationship with God and we are left empty and miserable because apart from God there is no true joy.

On the other hand, when we go out of our way to help others, we feel good about ourselves.  The good feeling that comes from helping others is a part of our nature: it is part of the way that God made us.  We were created to love others and we feel good about ourselves when we live the way that we were created to.  Yet temptation can easily creep back in and make us forget this truth.  Our human nature is fallen: it is inclined towards sin and selfishness.  Jesus gave us those two commandments to love because we need to be reminded of the love that we were created for.  We need God’s grace to live the love that He commands us to live.  We often need to take a step back and examine our hearts and ask ourselves where our treasure lies: do we love God, or do we love things?  Do we love others, or do we love ourselves more?

We need God’s grace to love the way that He commands us to love.  Our fallen nature is incapable of living the love that God calls us to without His divine assistance.  God is love and He desire that we become more like Him.  We have to ask Him for His gifts: Jesus taught us to ask for the things that we need.  Let us ask God to help us to grow in love and increase our faith that we may see that the only lasting treasure is in Heaven.

Let us pray for the graces that we need to make sure that our hearts are properly ordered.  Let us ask God for His assistance that we may live the love that He calls us to have.  Lord Jesus Christ, help us to seek You above everything else.  Help us, Lord, to use the things of this world in a way that pleases You; help us to love others as You call us to love them.  Amen.