18 September 2016

The temptation to serve evil

25th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Two Sundays ago, Jesus told us that we must love him first, so that when we love our families, friends, and our stuff we love them all through him. Last Sunday, he taught us that when we love him first, we receive his love as divine mercy. Tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, prodigal sons, even priests (!) experience the love of God as forgiveness of their sins. This Sunday, our Lord piles on the wisdom by revealing a simple yet difficult truth: we cannot serve two masters. This truth is simple b/c it reveals a starkly bare choice. This master or that one. It's difficult b/c making the choice leaves no room for compromise, no wiggle-room for convenient adjustments, or mercenary deal-making. I serve Christ, or I serve the Enemy. If I choose to serve Christ, then I serve Christ with all my heart, soul, body, mind, all my strength. There are no vacation days so that I might pop over to the Enemy's place and do a bit of work for him. Serving your master (whichever one you choose) is a great responsibility. The risks and rewards are greater still. For the followers of Christ, those who serve our master, the Christ, the task is easy, the burden light.
Our task is easy and our burden is light. However, teaching, preaching, and living out the Good News of Christ Jesus is still a fairly large responsibility. To this one task are attached many other tasks. And to these many tasks are attached even more. But all these tasks come down to one Big Task: serving Christ among nations. We serve Christ among the nations by doing, saying, thinking, feeling only those things that bring us closer to Christ, only those words and deeds and thoughts that propel us toward perfect holiness in him. The more consistently and zealously we serve, the more determined we become to serve. And the more determined we are to serve the greater the chance that we will not fall prey to the temptation of serving the Other One. If you think that the Enemy is going to appear in your bedroom at 3am and entice you into his service with wealth, power, and celebrity – think again. Such a stunt would likely give you a heart attack! He's a fallen angel not a Cartoon Network clown. The temptation to serve the Enemy can be subtle. It's quiet, often elegant and complex. Sometimes – true – it rushes at you like a flash flood. And more often than you might imagine, the invitation to serve the Other One comes dressed up in its Church clothes.
For example, this past week, a group calling itself “Catholics for Choice” put full-page ads in a number of major media markets, touting their lies about the compatibility of Catholicism and abortion. The ad proclaimed in part, “Public funding for abortion is a Catholic social justice value.” Tellingly, the ad goes on to note that since 99% of married Catholics practice artificial contraception, it makes perfect sense that Catholics can – in good faith – ignore the Church's 2,000 year old teaching against abortion. So, the logic goes, if you use contraception, you can condone abortion – in good faith. That is the Enemy tempting you to serve his cause. He dresses it up in churchy language, ties it to a common sin, and then offers you a way to serve him that allows you believe that you are still serving Christ – in good faith. If you think the Church is wrong on contraception, and you practice contraception, and you still consider yourself a “good Catholic,” then why stop there? You can be a “good Catholic” and support using taxpayer money to pay for the killing of unborn children. Thank God, our bishops stepped up immediately and rounded denounced this group for what it is – liars. It isn't Catholic. And it doesn't serve Christ. 
“Catholics for Choice” is just one, very obvious example of the Enemy tempting faithful Catholics into his service. Most of us will experience more subtle temptations. The occasional venial sin. The more dramatic mortal sin. The compromise to keep the peace, to keep a job. The small, apparently harmless nod of approval to someone else's favorite sin. The failure to forgive, to love, to show mercy. That hesitation to offer hospitality. All of these can and will open a door to serving the Enemy. BUT if you maintain a constant vigilance in your service to Christ, you will look at these temptations and see them for what they are: pathetic attempts to get you to switch masters. We have been entrusted with a huge responsibility – one, big, divinely assisted task. Teach, preach, and live out the Good News of Christ Jesus. This task requires us to think with the mind of Christ; to work with the heart of Christ; to pray with the soul of Christ; and to sustain ourselves in the good graces of God by being His hands and feet in the world. The Enemy will not relent just b/c we pass a law or win a court case. He's not going to stop just b/c we say we're Catholic. He's not interested in our arguments or our evidence. He wants our service. B/c he knows that we cannot serve two masters. 
If we are busy serving him, we 're too busy to serve Christ.

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