In today’s Gospel, Our Lord warns us about serving God and mammon (or worldly goods), and not being overly concerned about our temporal possessions – In other words, the opposing standards, one of Our Lord and the other of the devil.
St Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, devotes entire meditations to this important truth, i.e. that Our Lord calls His disciples to poverty, contempt of the world, humility and living as a sign of contradiction -promising us very little in this life, but everything in the next whilst the devil tempts souls with riches and honours which lead to pride – promising them everything this world can offer but nothing in the next life. We see this especially when the devil tempted Our Lord during His 40-day fast with all the kingdoms of this world, if He would only fall dawn and worship Satan.
The only way to follow and fight under Our Lord’s standard is firstly, by spiritual poverty, that is. being satisfied with the necessities of life without desiring any more, so as not to fall into the vice of materialism, which is to no longer use temporal things as a means to an end but making them an end in themselves.
If we do this, we may end up rejecting the purpose of life, which is to praise, reverence and serve God in order to reach Heaven. We must use worldly things only insofar they don’t hinder salvation. At the same time, we must always remember that we are entirely dependent upon God for our very existence, that we really can’t go on living without the help of Divine Providence. But on the other hand, if we place our faith in things of the world, or in the liberal idea that God must conform to my progressive way or thinking, then we’ll end up rejecting God’s Will for our will, out of pride, telling Him : “/ wilt not serve”, as Lucifer did.
And as Lucifer was cast down from Heaven to Hell, so it will be the same for us if we reject God’s Will for superfluous ideas and worldly things, which will pass away like a shadow at our death. And a sudden death can happen to any one of us: even when everything seems to be going very well, sudden death can take us by surprise like it did with the victims in the Embassy bombings that occurred in East Africa several years ago, or through an earthquake or plane crash which occasionally claim the lives of hundreds of innocent people.
Why is this allowed to happen? Because life on earth is temporary and quickly passes away with time. We must do our very best to direct all our actions towards our future union with God in Heaven, which we can do right now by living in a state of grace, not just by avoiding Mortal Sin (which is the bare minimum), but as St Paul instructs us; “And they that are Christ’s have crucified their flesh with their vices and concupiscences”.
It is very beneficial for us to take to heart the petition from today’s Collect:
“Keep we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy Church with perpetual peace, and because the frailty of man without Thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by Thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation.”
To persevere in doing God’s Will, we must carefully preserve and at the same time work to increase the state of grace in our souls.
And when we seek the Kingdom of God in all things, so that even our temporal interests are attended to without any exaggerated preoccupation. Then we’ll be keeping ourselves from being too attached to the things of this world, and this will definitely help us to advance in the spiritual life.
Sadly there are far too many who live without the slightest thought for their eternal welfare, falsely thinking that their only life is here and now, even forgetting that they have a spiritual soul created in the image and likeness of God, and that their real home is in heaven, contemplating Him there for all eternity.
At the same time, we must have a profound gratitude towards God for the many benefits bestowed on us, both natural or supernatural, for even we ourselves would be very offended if we gave our best friend an expensive present, and the friend refused to thank us for our generosity, thus showing a total lack of gratitude and appreciation. This is all the more so with God, Who is our greatest benefactor, as well as our heavenly Father.
St. Paul also instructs us to walk in the spirit, to obey the inspirations of the Holy Ghost in all things. He who does this won’t do the works of the flesh (of which St. Paul gives a lengthy list), but will rather mortify all sensual desires, to make himself worthy to receive the fruits of the Holy Ghost: ‘Charity, joy, peace and patience’, and the just man will belong to Our Lord and secure eternal happiness for himself.
The last three virtues, modesty, continency and chastity, are of particular importance, especially in our time when Our Lady of Fatima told three children that many souls go to Hell for sins of the flesh. This is because the vice of impurity darkens the mind and blinds the heart to spiritual things, robbing the soul of divine life (sanctifying grace) when Mortal sins are committed, making the higher part of our soul a slave of our carnal passions.
And the only way we’ll be able to free ourselves from the slavery of sin and the power of the devil is when we begin to live according to the spirit of God. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” Though we must live in the world, we can’t live of the world according to its false spirit, which is one of luxury and pleasure, diametrically opposed to the spirit of Our Lord which is the Cross.
Carrying the Cross demands total sacrifice of ourselves and unfortunately so many Catholics are unwilling to mortify the flesh by true penance. So, they are quite comfortable where they are in the modern Church, since it no longer preaches Christ crucified, rarely mentions anything about death, judgment, Heaven and Hell, and much less even about the true reality of sin. On the contrary, Our Lord tells everyone without exception. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”
This we must do on a daily basis until the moment of our death, to finally reach Heaven. And let us do our very best to rely entirely on Divine Providence in all our trials, and at the same time to not be overly concerned with worldly or temporal things, which God’s Providence will always provide for as long as we pray with perseverance and child-like confidence, keeping in our minds and hearts these perennial words of Our Lord ‘No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will sustain the one and despise the other.” We cannot serve God and mammon.