daily biblical sermons


HOW WE CAN LIVE FOR ONE MASTER ONLY
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, 11th Week of the Year, June 22, 2019
2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Psalm 33, Matthew 6:24-34


 

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

 

 

Jesus’ call is radical. He wants our complete and total devotion. He wants us to serve him with all our heart and soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30, Jesus’ first and most important commandment). His call to perfection is to leave all, give to the poor, and follow him (Matthew 19:21). He blesses those who renounce and leave for his sake “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands,” and says that they “will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). Jesus even goes so far as to say, “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). And perhaps his most radical saying of all is, “So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

 

 

In this context we can also understand Jesus’ saying about celibacy, “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Matthew 19:12). Celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven means refraining from marriage so that we might be in love with the Lord alone and have no human spouse. This way we can enter into an exclusive nuptial relationship with the Lord alone, excluding all other relationships of this depth and intimacy, that is, excluding marriage, excluding a human spouse for the sake of a more intimate, exclusive, and nuptial relationship with a divine spouse.

 

 

St. Paul declares this form of life (celibacy), which he himself chose and lived, to be superior to marriage, for “he who marries his betrothed does well; but he who refrains from marriage will do better” (1 Corinthians 7:38). This is why St. Paul counsels widows to remain single and not remarry, although they have a right to remarry. “If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I have the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 7:39-40).

 

 

St. Paul’s comparison of celibacy to marriage is a beautiful description of the ideal of loving God with all our heart and soul, mind and strength, with an undivided heart, not divided even by a human spouse: “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

 

 

All of this is contextual background for better understanding today’s Scripture passage where Jesus tells us, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). What this saying has in mind is a slave and his master where the slave is the master’s property, and he must respond to the master’s wishes with entire devotion. He could hardly do this if he had two separate masters, each requiring total and complete devotion to do what they order him to do, for they will often order him to do rather different and even opposed things. He must then leave one and serve the other completely.

 

 

This is the kind of radical service and devotion that Jesus teaches us that we should have for God. He calls the other competing master “mammon,” which means worldly wealth and the life of pleasure that it can buy for us. People can easily become addicted to mammon, that is, to money, to daily banqueting on sumptuous gourmet foods, to recreational activities, trips, and worldly and frivolous entertainments and pastimes that waste our time, divide our heart, and distract our mind from the one thing necessary, the service of the Lord with all our heart and soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).

 

 

A Christian is called to single-mindedness, to single-minded living for the Lord. The opposite of this is double-mindedness. RT France notes that Matthew 6:24 on serving only one master “portrays the sort of ‘double-mindedness’ which spells spiritual disaster” (RT France, The Gospel of Matthew (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 2007), page 262). Great spiritual benefit comes to us from living in this resolute, single-minded, wholehearted way, devoted to the Lord with all our heart, without division of heart. Such a way of living requires renunciation and self-denial in exchange for a deeper, exclusive, nuptial-type relationship with the Lord alone. Therefore Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NKJV).

 

 

Doing this is to lose our life in this world, and we will lose many pleasures that life in this world could provide us with; but Jesus tells us, “Whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it” (Luke 9:24). So we are promised that if we lose our life in this way by living a simple, even basically solitary life (celibacy) for his sake, renouncing a more pleasurable worldly life, “he will save it [his life].” “For whoever would save his life [in a worldly way by indulging in worldly pleasures] will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake [by renouncing unnecessary worldly pleasures], he will save it” (Luke 9:24).

 

 

The life of St. Paul is a wonderful example of this radical, Christ-centered life. He left his family, his parents, his brothers and sisters, he has no wife and no children, and he spent the rest of his life preaching the gospel to the world, trying to convince people of its truth and trying to convert them to faith in Christ for their salvation, as well as meditating deeply on the meaning of the gospel and writing about it and explaining it in a way that scholars and theologians still seriously ponder over and study with great benefit to this day. He lived the kind of life that Jesus lived and is proposing to us today by telling us that we should serve only one master.

 

 

Sometimes we can be tempted to do otherwise, so this gives us an occasion to choose again the more thoroughgoing, literal, radical, and complete way of serving God with all our heart and soul, mind and strength, with an undivided heart in our love for him, not divided by human loves and worldly pleasures, and not seeking them out.

 

 

How can we concretely live this way in our daily life? If we are priests, we can do so by entrusting ourselves completely to God, knowing by faith that he will lead us and fill us with his love, and so we will devote ourselves to him, to reading and studying his word and explaining it to others, ministering to them, and seeking our joy in life in him in a life of prayer, silence, study, writing, and ministry, while living in a religious community of priests and brothers. This is choosing to serve one master only, the Lord; but to be able to effectively serve the Lord in the way that he wants to be served we must also renounce serving another master, mammon.

 

 

We need to choose one master only, the Lord, and renounce mammon in a concrete way, eating simply, avoiding delicacies and pleasure foods that are not simple and are often quite unhealthy. We need to live simply and quietly in much silence and solitude with the Lord and with our work, study, and reading, not a life of superficial, frivolous, time-wasting worldly entertainments, amusements, pastimes, games, movies, pleasure trips, house visits, eating out, and fine dining in restaurants.

 

 

We need to live a simple life, devoted to the Lord, with all our heart and soul, mind and strength, spending our lives and our time doing the work he has given us and serving him by ministering to others. We should not be chasing after unnecessary worldly pleasures. If we live this way, we will gain the hundredfold reward that Jesus promises to those who choose this way of renunciation, for “every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).

 

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