February 27, 2011 - Sunday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Trust is the highest regard one person can have for another. I may like somebody, I may even love somebody, but, until I trust somebody, I am holding something back. Trust is fundamental to human relationships, but misplaced trust can be fatal. If I am going to trust someone completely, they need first of all to be competent. I would not trust any four-year-old to drive a car. Second, they must have my best interests at heart. Even if I find someone competent, they have to care about what happens to me and they have to desire for me what is good.

No one but God fits this definition perfectly. No one else is perfectly competent and perfectly desires our good. It would seem like we should all trust God completely out of our own self-interest, yet how rare such trust is! So many people decide instead to trust the god Mammon, money. Why do we trust Mammon? Well, money is competent. It can do 95% of what we need done in life. It can provide food and shelter and clothing and entertainment. Money is like a genie in a lamp: a billion dollars can provide a lot of wishes. Does money have our best interest at heart? Money does not really have anything at heart, but it does obey us. The problem is that money is only as smart as we are. Money cannot take care of us better than the best human mind money can buy, and that is only if we know who to turn to for advice.

So even though God can do anything and money can only do lots of things, and even though God knows what is good for us even when we do not, and even though God loves us and wants to care for us and money does not care about anything, many people still choose to worship money: they praise money, they spend hours each day thinking about how to acquire money, their morality is based on how to get money. At first, it seems like a strange mistake. God is more powerful than money. God is smarter than money. God loves us completely, and money does not love us at all. Why would anyone choose to trust money instead of God?

It could only be stupidity. There is a stupidity in us due to original sin. We would rather have things our way than the best way. Like a child who is upset because, instead of receiving candy for dinner, their parents have made delicious, nutritious dishes, we cannot see the past whatever we think we want in order to understand that God will only give us the best.

There is another kind of stupidity in us. We hear everything that Jesus says about how God will provide for us, how God will not leave us to starve. We hear from the Lord that even if our mother forgets us, he will not forget us. We are told not to worry. We believe that Jesus is God. We believe that he would not lie to us or pretend something was true that was not. We believe that God loves us. And then we do a kind of bad logic in our head; we put all this on a shelf called religion and get back to real life. Religion is a silly thing if it does not apply to real life.

Something inside of us says that it is all well and good to believe these things but they are not reliable.  When have we ever attempted to rely on them? Trusting in God does not mean that, if I sit home doing nothing, food will appear magically, as if God wanted us to be lazy. Trusting in God does not mean that I can be foolishly wasteful with what I have and expect that God will support my bad habits. But trusting in God does mean something. It means that, if I work hard, according to the abilities that God gave me, and I live my life as God tells us to live, and I consciously rely on God, not having him be a magician in the back of my mind who I forget about until I need something, then I never need to be afraid, I never need to worry.

A person who lives like this, trusting God rather than money, will probably not have many of the nicer things in life, but are flat screen TV’s and granite countertops worth all the worrying? They will probably not end their life with a large balance in their bank account, but it is not as if we can take it with us. They might not ever be able to retire. It is fascinating that in our culture we presume retirement as a kind of right, but, in the Gospel, the only time retirement is mentioned Jesus says, “You fool!”

Jesus is telling us that we have to choose between a life where we live basically for ourselves and a life where we forget ourselves and just live. If we trust in God we need to give up on the American dream: the idea that we will live a life substantially different than what we were born into. If we will trust in God, we see this life as a training ground for the next life rather than looking for a place to rest in this world. We may have joys in life, and that can be good. We may do very well because of some circumstances, and we can thank God for it. The difference is whether our whole life is designed around how to get ahead, or if we just live life one day at a time, making plans but not holding on to them, never thinking that we cannot do what is right because of our material needs, never thinking we have arrived somewhere where we earned the right to stop serving our brothers and sisters or to stop serving God.

I want to point out the second reading here. While the other readings were about how we need to trust God, in the second reading St. Paul points out how God trusts us. This is particularly amazing, considering how untrustworthy we are. God could just run the world all by himself, but he lets us cooperate “as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” This shows that he has destined us for great things. We are like 15 year-olds with our permits, and God is letting us drive. You let your children drive because you want them to become mature adults with good driving skills. God is getting us ready for real life, which has not begun yet, but it will begin soon.