Tuesday, September 24, 2019 - Updated: 9:27 am
Every morning I sit in the front bedroom of our house and iron my clothes for the day. The ironing board is in front of a large window, so while I am ironing I can see my neighbors as they emerge from their homes and begin their daily rituals. Some are rushing to catch a bus on the corner; some are loading their children into minivans; some are picking up the daily paper from their front doorstep.
One woman walks her two dogs by my house every morning at the same time, and let me tell you, these are big dogs. Both dogs are heavier than she is, and each dog has a mind of its own. Every morning I watch as the dogs try to pull her in different directions, and I worry sometimes that one, or both, of them are just going to drag her off down the street ... never to be seen again. Oh, she puts up a gallant effort, trying to control and master them with two heavy chain leashes, but no matter how hard she tries, it is obvious that she is not walking her dogs — in reality, her dogs are walking her.
Do you ever feel like this woman walking her dogs? Do you ever feel like you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions ... like you’re holding on for dear life? Do you ever feel literally leashed, literally chained, to two or more masters?
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us that “no servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” And yet, most of us live our lives trying to serve not just two, but three, four, five, maybe even more masters. In fact, our culture takes great pride in our ability to multitask. We’re told that we can have it all. We can do it all. But the fact remains that we “cannot serve both God and mammon.”
The word mammon is often defined as “money” or “riches,” but another way mammon can be translated is “that in which one trusts.” Mammon is used here as if it were itself a God — “That in which one trusts.” With that translation in mind, the question before us is: Which master do you serve? Which “god” do you trust?
All of us can name our own poison; there is plenty of mammon to go around. The temptations are everywhere. They slowly seduce us with promises of more and better until, before we know it:
• Our career becomes our god;
• Our bank account becomes our god;
• Our political party becomes our god;
• Sports becomes our god;
• Sex becomes our god;
• Our “stuff” becomes our god!
The great Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote that “our lives are shaped by the ends that we live for. We become the image of what we desire!”
Most of us are always running, trying to catch the things that will make us happy. But if we are not careful, if we are not vigilant, those very things that we are trying to catch often end up catching us.
So, what is the solution? Like my neighbor who is at the mercy of her dogs every morning, how do we disentangle ourselves from the many chains, leashes and masters that divert us from God?
I recently spoke with a group of religious education students about being “friends with God.” I asked them, “How do we become friends with God?” One little girl raised her hand and said, “Well, when I want to be friends with someone, I spend time with them!”
“I spend time with them!” My brothers and sisters, we cannot serve two masters. Our friendship with God can’t take a back seat to all of the mammon in our lives. We are never going to be truly happy, we are never going to be truly fulfilled, until we place God above all other things in our lives.
During the coming week, ask God for the grace to put aside whatever mammon is mastering your life for just one hour. Take one extra hour this week to work on your friendship with God. Maybe attend daily Mass; maybe read your Bible; maybe just sit quietly and reflect upon the many blessings in your life; maybe take a walk in the woods; maybe spend some time in the sacrament of reconciliation. Whatever you do for that hour make sure you are not interrupted by your iPhone, Facebook, “Dancing with the Stars,” your boss or your coach. Make sure that one hour is just between you and your friend, Jesus.
Deacon Kondrich is assigned to the parish grouping that includes Good Shepherd in Braddock, Madonna del Castello in Swissvale, St. Maurice in Forest Hills and Word of God in Rankin/Swissvale. He also serves as a chaplain at the Allegheny County Jail and is director of aftercare for the Foundation of HOPE.