Jesus challenges us to choose our master

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

Are you a foodie? This relatively recent term reflects the growing interest that our society takes in food, the desire to taste exotic and unusual flavors, the trend to raise cuisine to a fine art. Can we really put food on the same level as Shakespeare or Beethoven?

While I certainly enjoy eating, this latest obsession appears to go far beyond the necessary. Witness all the TV shows on cooking. Is this the end-all and be-all of life?

“So, do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek.”

These words of Jesus, from Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mt 6:24-34, should strike a chord. They sound remarkably relevant for our times, especially as we approach Lent. (This week, Ash Wednesday is on March 1.) Jesus is warning us about an overindulgence and useless anxiety that goes beyond simple concern for the basic necessities of life.

At the same time, Jesus is not just encouraging us to follow a diet that leads to physical health, to avoid rich foods and overeating. He is, above all, concerned about our spiritual well-being. He wishes to assure us of God’s love for us and our value in God’s eyes: “Look at the birds of the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?”

By placing our trust in God’s care for us, we reaffirm our commitment to God. We underline that fundamental choice that we have made to serve God.

That is why the Gospel prefaces Jesus’ teaching on worldly anxieties with the statement: “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Jesus is challenging us to choose which master we will serve. We cannot have both. God wants an undivided heart. This is the meaning behind the beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart,” which we heard recently in the Gospel reading for Jan. 29.

In directing us toward God, Jesus directs us away from mammon. The obscure term “mammon” means “property.” Jesus points to the birds of the sky and the flowers of the field as examples to follow, creatures which do not own property, yet nonetheless receive care from God.

We similarly are called to rely upon God. In that way, even if we own property, we will not be serving it, but rather God.

We will have made the right choice.

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