God or mammon?

Once there was an old Cherokee grandfather who was talking with his grandson about the battle that goes on inside all of us.

“It is a terrible fight. And it’s between two wolves.”

“Two wolves,” the boy said.

“Yes,” the grandfather replied, “One is all about evil – he is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, resentment, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “But the other brings out the good – he is joy, peace, hope, serenity, humility, generosity, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf is winning?”

The grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed the most.”

Which wolf am I feeding the most these days?

That’s the challenge Jesus poses for each of in today’s Gospel.

Let’s start with mammon, a word that no one can seem to translate.  When St Matthew uses it, he probably meant several things — “treasure”, “daily wages,” “money.” But somehow mixed in with that definition he means the abuse of these same things as well: “greed,” “possessiveness,” “misuse of power”.

In other words, mammon means not only all the things that we need to live, but — if we are not careful – allowing those same things to become the most important thing in our lives.

For me, it’s worrying about every ‘breaking news’ story on my smart phone, my constant companion. Maybe for you it’s golf clubs. Or a bank statement. Or a job title. A big house. Maybe a small business start-up – necessary as it is – which brings out the worst in us.  Being gone from the family 80 hours a week. Or maybe it’s the pressure of getting straight “A”’s in school. Or never, ever missing a day at the gym. Or an innocent hobby or sport that’s grown into something a little too time consuming, pulling us away from loved ones… every weekend.

All of us probably have something that started out good, but now pulls us away from God. In Catholic theology, St. Augustine planted the seeds of “fundamental option” theory within his City of God. Everyone gradually develops a basic orientation either for or against God.  We are for God if our life is fundamentally devoted to the love and service of others, and we are against God if we find ourselves devoted to our needs and our desires.

So, how do you choose God? It’s simple, really. If you are choosing to serve God, serve God. Build His kingdom, love your enemies, pray, fast, abstain, go the extra mile, share your gifts with the poor. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If something isn’t right, fix it. If you are tired of the nightly news, the problems in our city, try to fix it. Walk the walk. For God.

Imagine if we all fed that wolf for a while? Imagine if we all were always confident God’s promise from our first reading from Isaiah, when God says: “I will never forget you?”

Because as a community of faith, we believe God will lift us up in our struggles. God will give us strength to do what we need to do this Lenten season. On Wednesday, we’ll hear “Repent, and hear the good news.” Let that be our reminder to stay the course, to affirm our choice of God over mammon. We are on the right path. There is no reason to be anxious. Today is a new day in Christ.

Through our quiet prayer, through our contrite heart, through our daily decision to look at our lives and say “I know which wolf is getting fed today!”

Through our simple “amen” may we always declare, in word and deed, again and again…

I choose the Lord.”

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