Saturday, September 18, 2010

Marriage, a Sacrament of Enduring Love Where You Cannot Serve both God and Mammon

No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon."

This is Catechetical Sunday. Each year during this Sunday a new theme is announced for the year. Last year’s theme was the Year for Priests. This year’s theme is “Matrimony: Sacrament of Enduring Love.”

So I’ve tried to weave together the theme for the year and the readings for today’s Liturgy – which warn us not to neglect the poor. It was an interesting challenge.

St. Ambrose “You are not making a gift of your possessions to poor persons. You are handing over to them what is theirs. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”

So many married couples operate under the premise that their primary responsibility as a parent is to provide for the material well being of their children – a house, cars, food, education. This is all well and good, but it is NOT your primary obligation. Your primary obligation is to live out the Gospels in your own life. “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

As I began to reflect on this and some of the married couples that I know that live out this Gospel call to serve the poor, a few couples immediately come to mind. These three couples have witnessed to me how married love can be lived out in a way that serves God and not mammon.

From the dunghill he lifts up the poor (today’s Psalm 113:7)

The first couple I would like to reflect on I actually know through my father. My father’s doctor growing up was Dr. Phil Gigliotti. Over the last few years I have gotten to know Dr. G on a very spiritual level. Whenever I stop to visit him at his office I notice he is always talking to his patients, his drug reps, his staff about Jesus. He has stacks of bibles in his office that he gives to random people that stop in. One time when I was there he got a call from a girl considering an abortion. He told her “I need you to drop what you are doing come in here right now because we need to pray.” But what I have come to love and admire most about Dr. G is that he and his wife have been to Mexico a handful of times together (Dr. G has been there over 25 times). They take their vacation time and go to the Garbage dumps where people are living in absolute filth. Dr. Phil and his wife drive up in a bus and set up a table and chairs in the mist of the piles of garbage and talk to the people, pray with them, give them vitamins and medicine, clothes and toiletries and toys. They are literally lifting the poor from the dunghill. He has shared with me how his whole life and his marriage has been impacted by this. They clearly are a couple who serve God and not mammon. You cannot serve both God and mammon."

St. Barnabas is blessed to have a mission team that goes to El Salvador. Maybe God is calling you to come to know the poor in this way. It is a big step and a sacrifice of time and money, but it will change who you are forever. Could you imagine what that would be like if you; husband and wife came with us to “lift up the poor?” Maybe there is a group in your own parish that does this or it is something that you have always wanted to do. Take the radical step and your life will be forever changed.

Prepare a full account of your stewardship (today’s Gospel)

The second couple I would like to reflect on is a couple that I met on my internship parish at St. John Vianney. Don and Anne Craven have taught me a lesson that has forever impacted my priesthood. When I was newly ordained and after being a student for almost thirty years I was finally getting a salary. Don offered to help me set up a budget. I warned him that I don’t even balance my check book and I don’t want to. He laughed and said that he had worked with worse. I trust Don because not only is he a man of integrity but he is also a very savvy business man. He develops and manages hotel operations all over and oversees huge projects. As he sat with me and told me about different things that should be in a budget he said this is one thing I would really encourage you to build into your budget – tithing. He than witnessed to me how he began to tithe, giving 10% of everything he made to the poor. If he got a Christmas bonus, say $10,000 at the end of the year. He would hand the priest a check for $1,000. Every pay check that he cashed – 10%. He and his wife taught their children this as well. With every allowance they received 10% would go to whatever organization they wanted to give to. He went on to tell me of the blessings that came with tithing and how God multiplied and gave back in abundance. You cannot serve both God and mammon."

This layman and his family have been my inspiration. Because of their witness to me I have been tithing from the time I was ordained. Every gift I have received – 10% goes to the poor. Every pay check I have cashed – 10% goes to the poor. Every stipend that I receive from a wedding or funeral or talk or card with a little money in it – 10% goes to the poor. I can’t begin to tell you what a privilege this has been to me and a joy to have this practice of tithing. I share this, at the risk of “already receiving my own reward” to show how a couple fully living out their vocation to marriage, and giving to the poor, has helped me to be the priest that I am.

Tithing is a wonderful way of Stewardship and a way to serve God and not Manna? Do you tithe? What would it be like if you and your spouse and your children gave 10% of everything you received to the poor?

No servant can serve two masters. (Today’s Gospel)

The third couple I would like to reflect on I got to know my first year at the seminary. Every year we were assigned a different ministry: prison ministry, teaching at a grade school, visiting a hospital, or volunteering at a shelter. My first assignment was to go every to the West Side Catholic Center. I went there on Wednesdays and I met a couple who had been going every Wednesday for years. He would work in the kitchen preparing the meal for lunch and she would work up front at the counter registering people, assigning them mail boxes, getting their mail, arranging for social services, or giving them access to a shower. To this day any Wednesday I stop in they are there. This couple has given me a beautiful example of a married couple in service to the poor. You cannot serve both God and mammon."

We have a great opportunity this weekend to help the poor with the “Father Beiting Appalachian Collection.” Take this opportunity to go through your house with your children and give some of your own possessions to the poor and needy. Every parish has a St. Vincent de Paul or similar organization that you could volunteer with.

The West Side Catholic Center is always in need of help both with donations and volunteering. Can you imagine the lesson this would forever teach your children if you went down there as a family? What a way to serve God and not mammon.

Dr. Phil and his wife lifting the poor from the dunghill and garbage dumps, Don and Anne who taught me how to tithe, and the couple that witnessed to me service to the poor at the Westside Catholic Center, I have been inspired by the way that they live out their marriage. During this year where we uphold the dignity of Marriage as a Sacrament of Enduring love, may this love reach beyond our own families and touch those who are poor. “You cannot serve both God and mammon."


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