Sermon for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost – August 26, 2018 by Father Paul Sretenovic
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Father began the sermon with a Hail Mary. Today, the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, the key phrase is from the gospel, “You cannot serve both God and mammon”. “Avarice”, as defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia is the inordinate love for riches. It is called a capital vice because it has as its’ object the gaining or holding of which, whereby many other sins are committed. The first part seems easy enough, the inordinate love of riches, avarice, that’s what you think of, somebody who wants to get rich. You don’t have to be rich to be avaricious. Put it this way: the poor shall inherit the kingdom of God, right? Not those who are materially poor because there are a lot of poor people who wish they were rich, and that is not a virtue. To be poor, to accept what God has given to you and to be thankful for it and if God changes the circumstances to be grateful as well, is one thing. But avarice is the love of riches, not just gold and silver or money but the desire for possessions which have a monetary value, of course. It is this replacing of God with self, the corruption of the heart, which leads us to love ourselves more than we love God ultimately. Avarice is definitely something we have to combat. We’ll see that again in a moment but I think there is a distinction between those who are trying to be good, trying to live Catholic lives, for instance, than those of the world, so that there is maybe a different application we would give to the world than we would give to ourselves here. And, in fact, especially in relation to the latter part of the definition from the encyclopedia, has as its’ object after the gaining or holding of which many other sins are committed. The banks are a big example of this by wanting to get rich taking advantage of people committing sin, usury, or exorbitant interest rates; maybe the most obvious example as love of wealth is stealing to get what is desired. Wells Fargo not long ago in the news, had their Merry Christmas billboards and they were having a Merry Christmas indeed stealing from their customers siphoning literally from accounts. So you can see where the desire to get more money actually caused them to abuse those who were giving them the money to begin with. So that’s a problem. More recently, U.S. Bank, my bank, comes to mind, advertising on their doors, “Show Your Pride” by getting a special LGBTQ-colored debit card. They do this realizing that the money in support that they gain will almost definitely outweigh any losses from crazy people like me who are going to withdraw their money from this bank and send it elsewhere, most likely to another wickedly usurious institution that at least has not yet done something this crazy. Lesser of two evils maybe? You may remember years ago a sermon I gave about not drinking Pepsi anymore. Well, for health reasons probably it would be good not to, but I was thinking, okay, they had this big agenda for everything evil and I was talking to Father Smith about this. And he said, yes, you can preach that we should stay away from them but then are you not going to go to Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, or other places that are probably not best for us anyway but how many other things are you going to be thinking about, I’ll need to give this up and give this up and and and –. Generally speaking it may be a lot of these places are plugged into something evil and you can’t avoid everything. And even if you did they wouldn’t care because they’re getting plenty of money anyway. It would be up to the bishops to do their duty and to tell us what to boycott or not to boycott. Even though we can still do it, if we do it as a group then they feel it. Then they have to make the changes. But if the bishops don’t do their duty, and then we are left to saying, Okay, I can do this and do my best or figure it out and in the meantime I know I’m not really damaging them at all. At the same time, something like this where I’m looking at the door and the advertising is right in our faces and I’m sure there is someplace like Farmers and Merchants who are supposed to be a little more conservative, somewhere you can go that even though it is not ideal you can still use it. It’s not a moral obligation per se because it’s just one evil for another really, and then, of course, if you’re working at these banks you’re not committing a sin in doing that. It’s one of those things where sometimes in doing the Will of God you have to play by the rules of the devil and there is no way around that. But with something like this where for instance I have a choice between going to Starbuck’s and going to Dunkin Donuts even though it takes me about seven minutes longer to get to, I’ll probably do that versus supporting the other place. Not that this is such a huge thing but I think for ourselves we have to make a choice to say, Okay, how am I going to take a stand for the Faith? How am I going to take a stand if not even for the Faith in this case, the natural moral law? And maybe you can’t avoid everything, maybe there are one or two things you say, You know what, I’m going to avoid this because I’m going to take a stand for my soul and maybe there’s another soul that gains from it as well. And in the process when I withdraw my money I’m going to tell them why and probably get arrested but hopefully not. Anyway, living today’s day, scripturally speaking, this is the devil’s hour. And in speaking of the devil, he temps us to avarice in a different more subtle way then he does the bankers or the government with the taxes which are exorbitantly ridiculous, but for us I would say considering this, there are more important issues that otherwise tend to affect us, like for the chapel say the modesty in dress would be a bigger issue, the fact that people come to Communion receiving and really shouldn’t, sacrilege in certain cases, that to me bothers me more than somebody who is giving $10 versus $15 in the collection. But at the same time being that today is about loving God or mammon I’ll stick with the topic and hopefully we are not actually literally stealing from people. At the same time we have to ask ourselves, the devil who knows that we are trying to do good he’s not going to tempt us in the most obvious way. Maybe there are other ways; maybe we are not really planning enough, maybe he keeps out of our minds certain things that we should be doing. For instance, maybe we are giving a certain amount of money in the collection or maybe a certain amount of money for different stipends whether it be Masses or whether it be different sacraments or what have you. But maybe there’s more that we are supposed to be giving as a sacrifice to God and we would be if we were not so attached to the world, if we were not so attached to this pleasure or that pleasure or this thing, maybe not sinful but maybe something that we don’t need or need as much of as we have and maybe doing penance means saying okay, I’m going to avoid this for a while. If it saves money I’m going to give it to a good cause and in doing that you are actually giving alms and you are taking away temporal punishment due to your sins, you are helping to open the way to God’s grace so you can make a better confession and just be more magnanimous, be more generous in your gift to God of self. This is important for us to consider even if there are not mortal sins that we are committing at the present time as a result of maybe not giving enough. Now when I talk about this too in terms of giving more money, I’m not looking to see any of it really or much of it. The Church has very specific rules for the clergy, like the only reasons why I’m able to offer two Masses today is because of the need you have where there are a significant number of people who would not be able to make the Sunday Mass unless I’m here offering it for you. But even that second stipend needs to go back to the Church, not to myself. There were abuses at certain times where you would have priests offering five, six, seven Masses a day which objectively speaking, wow, the more Masses the better, right? Well, they weren’t doing it for the love of God necessarily, but it was making them pretty rich. So that is literally trying to make a buck off the Blood of Christ and there are few things that could be more hateful than that. So the Church says that a priest normally only offers one Mass. If he offers a second Mass he gives the stipend back to the Church. If there are weddings or funerals he accepts a certain amount for himself, the rest he gives back to the Church because otherwise it becomes more of a temptation for him to want more of these things, not doing it for the glory of God but for his own bank account, (speaking of banks,) right? And that can be a temptation. It’s a very subtle temptation. In the spiritual books on the priesthood, the saints and other spiritual writers, warn the priests, especially pastors in charge of the account for the parish, not to lose sight of the spirituality, authentic priestly spirituality. Otherwise, all these different projects that go into the parish raising money it becomes a god in and of itself and the god of some priests has become mammon. As some of these writers would say, don’t become like them because you run the risk of losing your soul that way. So it is one of those things that I have to continue to examine. I’m obviously not in charge so I don’t really have that issue specifically but there are times when I can get per month all of a sudden you have five, six, seven different calls and you get all this coming in. Well, what do you do with it, God is watching. And for you, husbands and fathers, to get extra money coming in, what do you do with it, how do you use it? Is it for self or for God? Make sure you put a certain amount for God first before you do anything else. So no matter what you know you are giving Him first what is good for His Church, the building of His Church. This is good material for examination of conscience for all of us on one level or another. And be honest, are you generously giving or giving just enough, while allotting too much maybe for vacations which are legitimate of themselves. But be careful, maybe other lawful but ultimately unnecessary items, do not gyp God. And with vacations on another note, if Mass must be missed on a Sunday it should really not be more than once a year. And even then, as former parishioners from Ventura used to tell me, (Father Schell would mention to them that – they were going to Mass on Saturdays there. I think Father Schell would come down here for Mass on Sunday). And he said, okay, the Saturday fulfills your Sunday obligation but also if by some chance you have to get away and be away on a Sunday, make sure you get to another Mass during the week if you can, if that Mass is legitimate. And with this too – because it comes up if you are away, to go to the Indult if that’s all there is. While I specifically cannot give a moral obligation here, I think Father Schell would be a good example of this. I mentioned this to the people earlier. There was a time in Ventura in which because Father Schell was there they opened up – it was Cardinal Mahoney who said, okay, we’re going to have an Indult Mass. And the sole purpose of this was not because the people were asking, he wouldn’t have given to them otherwise but because Father Schell was there. So he opens up an Indult and then Father Schell had between 75 and 100 parishioners, who would go to His Mass and then go on Sunday to the Indult. Father Schell put a stop to that. He said, okay, you make a choice. I am here not to just give you the Mass but to give you the Catholic Faith unadulterated. We don’t judge the other priests and their intentions but this is what we are doing. You either come here or you go there. You make a choice. He lost two-thirds of his parishioners one week later. It seems like, well, he failed. Christ lost how many followers for His teaching on the Holy Eucharist? Were numbers most important or was the Faith most important? The Faith. In light of that, I would just say that’s why I think the Indult is hateful. Honestly I can’t stomach it because it only exists because of people like us. It doesn’t mean you are sinning if you go per se. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that in terms of the spirit of our faith, in terms of giving God what is His due first and foremost, you certainly are not required to do that. I would say that Father Schell is a very good example if you want an example of one who has taken a stand very specifically in this regard, and he did. As a rule also, do not vacation during the Church’s penitential season. We cannot do what the Apostle says and put on the mind of Christ if we do not live according to the mind and laws of Holy Mother Church, the spirit of Holy Mother Church. So sacrifice when it is time to sacrifice and then in doing so you actually have the extra money that you give for a better cause and God will reward you for that. On the last day we will be judged by every moment and every dollar that we have spent to the last farthing. Before any expenditure or expedition, examine your conscience first, not afterwards – first – as to whether or not God is both part of and central to your decision. If not, then best to wait and weight other options that will help your soul and the souls of your family members and friends and the poor souls on their journey to heaven. So this is how we talk about time, we talk about money, it all does add up in the end. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.