MEMORIAL OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT

YOU CANNOT SERVE BOTH: A HOMILY ON THE MEMORIAL OF ST. LEO THE GREAT

St. Leo the Great was a pope, the first to be called the Great. One thing that makes him great is that he wrote extensively about our attitude as ministers of the church. We find one of such writings in his sermon which we read in the Office of Readings today. He wrote that our ministries should be carried out in a spirit of sacrifice. We are to offer ourselves as spiritual sacrifices to God. One problem we have is that we want to be both spiritual and materialistic at the same time. We want to drive the best cars, use the best phones, dress in the best clothes, have a big bank account and still be very spiritual.

St. Paul in the first reading tells us that he is not worried about shortage of money. He has learnt to manage on whatever he has. He knows how to be poor and how to be rich. He knows how to be hungry and how to be satisfied, to be poor and to be rich. He thanks the Philipians for the gifts of money which they gave to him. He said there were the only ones who gave him such gift. He assures them that he has all he needs. He then prays that God will provide what they need as well.

Yes, St. Paul did recieve gifts from people. Yes, people should support the church as well as their pastors materially. But St. Paul did not ask for more than he needed. He got just enough to provide for his basic needs. This is different from using the ministry to enrich oneself. It is different from seeing money as what makes the ministry a success. This is partly caused by lack of fear for God. The responsorial psalm says happy the man who fears the Lord. Some ministers have lost fear for God, and that is why we can stand in a church and even lie to people, just to get money out of them. We give fake prophesies and go into all kinds of ‘abrakatabra’ in the name of prayers, and we even call the name of Jesus in the process. Then we convince ourselves that the labourer deserves his wages. When people give, by all means take it happily. But dont become a lover of money, ready to do anything as long as it brings money.

Jesus tells us in the gospel to use money to win friends for ourselves. But He calls money a tainted thing. Money is tainted for several reasons. One reason why money is tainted is that it is impossible to make money that is completely pure. Yes, I said that. Before any money enters into my hands, somewhere along the line, something would have gone wrong. Someone may have been paid less than what he/she should be paid. Someone may have stolen in one way or another. Maybe someone has lost his/her life. Someone may have lied. Someone may have chared far more than what he/she should charge. So, there is hardly any money that would enter my hand, which has not gone through a wrong hand. So, at least, I can do some good with it.

If all money is tainted, then money can corrupt the one who holds it. This is why Jesus tells us that no servant can be a slave of two masters. YOU CANNOT SERVE BOTH GOD AND MONEY. Some of us ignore this part and think we can be in love with God and be in love with money at the same time. It is just not possible. This is why those who consecrate themselves to religious life take a vow of poverty. This poverty is not to look dirty and not have food to eat. It is evangelical poverty, where like St. Paul, we depend on what we get. We can ask for donations when we need money for something, but we dont go out of our way looking for money.

Even for people who are not priests or religious or pastors, there is a difference between wanting enough money to provide for yourself and your family, and wanting to make unlimited amount of money irrespective of how it is made. The question is ‘Are you a lover of money?’. Just because someone is rich does not mean the person is a lover of money. Also, just because a person is poor doesnt mean the person is not a lover of money. It is more in the heart than in the pocket. One way to know if you are a lover of money or not is by considering what you are prepared to do to make money. If you love something or someone, you will be prepared to do ANYTHING to get that thing or that person. If you are prepared to tell lies, steal, defraud, kill, oppress people, in order to make money, then you are a lover of money. If you focus only on the money that comes to you legitimately, then you are not a lover of money.

One thing that can really mess up the spiritual life of anybody is love of money. Some people go to church a lot, but all their prayers is focused on making a lot of money. They claim they are very spiritual. True it is good to pray for what we need, but there is a problem if our needs is the only reason we pray. You cannot be the Lover’s Beloved and at the same time be a lover of money. You cannot serve both God and money. It is not difficult. It is impossible.

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