Sunday is the Lord’s Day, Keep it Holy
September 19, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I (Amos 8:4-7) Reading II (1 Timothy 2:1-8)
Gospel (St. Luke 16:1-13)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us, You cannot serve both God and mammon. This is a point which seems evident enough, and yet one which is quite a problem for us in this society because we live in a society where money is the means of exchange and therefore it is a necessity. And so it is very easy to get caught up in money. We have to keep in mind, as Saint Paul reminds us, that it is not money which itself is the problem, but it is the love of money which is the root of all evil. It is when we make something else into a little god. That is what happens to so many people with money: It becomes their little god.
Now it becomes very easily evident why it could be a trap to fall into. If we think about the possibility of not having enough to pay our bills, not having a job, taking a cut in pay, or anything along these lines, we realize how anxious we become. We begin to see that maybe we are putting more emphasis on money than we really ought to. While it is a necessity to live in this society, it really is not something we should be all that anxious over because God tells us that if we seek first His kingdom and His way of righteousness then everything else will be given to us. So we need to trust, but that is not an easy thing for us to do.
We look at our lives and realize just how much things have gotten turned backwards. But it is not just in our society, it has been there right along. Look at the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos; we see that there were problems back 2,500 years ago because the people of ancient Israel were having a problem, that is, what they were interested in was money. On the Sabbath day, because it was against the law to buy and sell, they did not; but they did not take the Sabbath day as a day of rest. They certainly did not use it as a means of worshiping God, but rather the Lord tells us through the prophet Amos that what the people were doing was simply looking at the next day when they could go out and buy and sell, when they could fix the scales and cheat people and steal. That was the way their mentality was. The Sabbath day was considered to be a problem because it meant that they made less money.
Well, unfortunately in our society, we have left that in the dust. It has come now to the point where people buy and sell on Sunday. There is hardly a store that is not open on Sunday, and even worse, Catholic people go to them on Sunday. It is a mortal sin! But we have just completely disregarded the Third Commandment and it seems not to matter much to us anymore. Sunday has become one of the most lucrative days for people who own businesses. Drive by the parking lot of a mall on Sunday and see if you can even find an empty spot. It is no longer even a matter of saying, “I can’t wait for Sunday to be over so that we can buy and sell again tomorrow and we can cheat and steal and rip people off,” rather we are just doing it on Sunday now.
We can even just think about our own attitudes about things. Is there anyone who can say that they have never been guilty of looking at their watch during Mass, wondering either “How long is this clown going to keep yacking on incoherently at us?” or whether it is just looking to make sure we are out within one hour because heaven forbid that we would have to spend more time in church? And if we really stop to ask ourselves why, it is because we have other things to do. We are going to go home and engage in the worship of the modern god of America and watch football for three hours straight – or longer, for all that matters; or we have something planned that we are going to go do and have fun. We have other things we want to do. We have big plans that are going to take lots of time, and we need to watch our watches so we can get out of church quick. But staying with God and worshiping Him, for some odd reason, that has become a problem. Do you see where we have our priorities turned backwards?
Now when we look at things from that kind of a perspective, thence we listen to Our Lord’s words in the Gospel and something comes out of His mouth that is quite astounding. He says, Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth. On the surface level, that is a rather startling statement from God. First of all, if it is dishonest why would we be making friends for ourselves – at His command? Secondly, why would we be seeking to make friends with money? That is not the way of God. Well, there are two ways you can take that. One, you can be like so many people living out in the world. They are lying, cheating, and stealing, and they can make lots of friends doing that because they can cut a deal for them or they can make friends just because they have money. Not real friends, but you know how it is: If you have money you will have lots of friends, when you lose your money you do not have any. It tells you they were not friends in the first place; they only wanted your money. That is one way of looking at it, but that is not the way Our Lord would intend it.
Rather, what He is telling us is that we have the opportunity in a society which is based in many ways on dishonesty to prove our honesty, our trustworthiness. You see, it is all dependent on how we do this. If we live in a society where we could lie and cheat and steal and we choose instead to be honest, then not only will people know we are trustworthy, but we will have proven it to ourselves. And the Lord tells us that if we are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who is going to give us true wealth? If we are not honest and trustworthy with what belongs to someone else, who is even going to give us what belongs to us? The true wealth is from God. God is rich in mercy. Or as we heard in the Alleluia verse: Jesus, though He was rich, became poor for our sake. True wealth is the grace of God; it is the eternal inheritance which is ours. But if we are not trustworthy with the things of this world, how can we be trustworthy with the things of the next world? How can we be trusted with the truth if we have proven ourselves to be dishonest? How can we entrust ourselves with the gifts of God if we have proven ourselves to be untrustworthy with the gifts of other people? How can we care for what belongs to God if we cannot even care for what belongs to human beings?
So in this case Our Lord tells us that we are to make friends for ourselves so that when the dishonest money fails, they will welcome us into eternal dwellings. Once again, that can be taken in two ways. If you decide to be dishonest, if you decide that you are going to cheat and steal from people, then you will indeed be welcomed into eternal dwellings – but they will not be in heaven. There are only two eternal dwelling places. So if you do not enter into heaven, then it is with the one who is the liar from the beginning, the one who cheats and steals constantly. It is with him that we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. On the other hand, if we prove ourselves in this life to be trustworthy when we could have been dishonest, then we will indeed be welcomed into eternal dwellings with the One Who is Truth Himself, with the One Who cannot be deceived nor deceive. That is what we are to be about.
We have a choice. We have to choose whether we are going to serve God or whether we are going to serve mammon. Again, we will immediately protest, “Of course, we are going to serve God!” So I challenge you simply to look at your daily life and ask yourself, “Whom do I serve?” If we are going to say that we serve God then we need to live that way. That means, as Saint Paul makes very clear in the second reading, that we have to be about prayer. And I do not mean any of this nonsensical stuff of people making excuses and saying, “Well, this is my prayer. I’m out doing things; that’s my prayer.” No, it’s not. “I’m doing the duties of my state in life; that’s my prayer.” No, it isn’t. Prayer is part of the duty of your state in life. The duties of your state in life done in charity become part of your spiritual life, but not the whole of it.
I think, too, we need to look at that last sentence in the second reading today. Saint Paul says, “I will that all men pray.” Sometimes men have this funny idea that prayer is for women, that it is not a very manly thing to do – another lie from Satan. Prayer is indeed for women; it is also for men because it is for anyone who claims to be a Christian. If you do not pray, you are not serving God and you are not living a Christian life. If there is not substantial time every single day spent with God, then you are not serving Him. Remember that there is one who is in hell for eternity because he said, “I will not serve” – Mr. Lucifer, who chose to be the man and not pray and not serve. Look at where he is.
We have two choices. We spend an awful lot of time serving the little gods of the modern age, yet we want to say that we serve God. Why, because we come to church on Sunday? That is not enough. If we come to Mass on Sunday and walk out of here so we can lie, cheat, steal, and be like everyone else, we are not serving God; we are giving Him lip service. To live the life, to serve God is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There is no vacation from being a Catholic. This is why Saint Paul tells us that when it comes to the truth it is in season or out of season, whether it is convenient or inconvenient. That is what we have to be about. It is not an easy thing to do, but it has eternal consequences one way or the other.
So that is the choice we have to make. Are we going to serve God or are we going to serve mammon? We cannot serve both. The Lord tells us that we will love one and hate the other, or we will serve one and despise the other. Every last one of us has to serve someone or something; no one of us is exempt from that. God will not force us to serve Him, so we have to make the choice. And it is not making a theoretical choice, but a very practical one. The choice is entirely ours. Choose whom you will serve – and then live it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.