22 September 2019

Can you be trusted with the faith?

Audio Link

25th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

As a seminary formator I sometimes have to sit one of my guys down and tell him that he needs to get a haircut, or to lose the handle-bar mustache, or to quit smoking, or even – ironically enough – to lose weight. Most of the times these guys nod solemnly and say, “Yes, Father.” Some grumble a bit but comply. And one or two resist and argue that whatever it is that I am asking them to do doesn't make sense or violates some unwritten Bill of Seminarian Rights. I always respond, “Brother, if we can't trust you to obey a simple request to get a hair cut, how can we trust you to keep your ordination promises?” The principle here is universally applicable: “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” Replace trustworthy with faithful. The person who is faithful in very small matters is also faithful in great ones. Replace faithful with loving. The person who is loving in very small matters is also loving in great ones. You get the picture. Being virtuous in small matters indicates an ability to be virtuous in larger ones. To be virtuous/faithful/loving in one area of your life but not in another is what it means to serve Two Masters. And what does Jesus say about serving two masters? “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” 
Well, why not? Who you to choose to serve defines who you are. In Jesus' day, servants were members of the family, part of the household. They weren't just hired help. If a servant said or did something shameful in public, the family he served would be publicly shamed. The idea here is that the servant holds his family's honor in his hands. He represents the integrity of the family as surely as the oldest son does. This familial set-up is partly why the early Church spread so quickly. If the father of the family was baptized, the whole family, the whole household was baptized, including the servants. A newly baptized servant could not serve his Christian family and, at the same time, continue attending pagan religious rites. If his family served God, and he served his family, then he served God. In other words, he was trusted with the family's faith and honor – in small things and large. And so are we. As members of the Father's household, heirs to His kingdom, we are held to account for the integrity of the faith we profess. We are responsible for upholding the truth, goodness, and beauty of our Father's faith in all things – great and small alike.

So, I ask you: are you trustworthy when it comes to keeping faith with Christ? In matters large and small? Or do you try to serve both God and Mammon, both the Lord and the World? As men and women who are consecrated to the service of God the Father but who must also live in the World, this is an extraordinarily difficult question to answer. What counts as serving the World – obeying secular laws? Paying taxes? Working for a gov't agency? Am I serving the World just by owning a house, or sending my kids to public schools? Think about the household servant in Jesus' day. He works for his family – cleaning, shopping, cooking, maybe even teaching the children. BUT. He is part of the family. Who he is is bound up with his family and their faith. In modern terms we might say that his identity as a person is tied to tightly to the family that he is no one without them and their faith. Do you serve the World in the way this man serves his household? Is your identity tied so tightly to worldly things and thoughts that you become no one without the stuff and noise of the World? If so, then you are trying to serve two masters. “[You] will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.”

As men and women consecrated to the service of God the Father we are entrusted with a Word that brings salvation to sinners. We are empowered to bear witness to God's mercy. We are charged with offering acceptable spiritual sacrifices and proclaiming the perfections of Christ. We are privileged to celebrate the sacraments of Christ and receive his healing help. We are made children of the Father and heir to His kingdom. Such greatness have we been given! Christ trusts us – each one of us – to complete his mission. To make known the manifold wisdoms of God and show those who will see that sin and death no longer hold the slaver's whip. And that whatever chains they may still wear they wear in ignorance and sloth. Christ trusts us – each one of us – to complete his ministry. To teach and preach the merciful Word to those with ears to hear. To shout out in word and deed that their freedom was not free. . .but to them it is freely given. Are you trustworthy in all things – great and small alike – to spend the faith Christ has given you? To purchase for God men and women hungry for the peace of Christ?

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