15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Amos 7:12-15; Mk 6:7-13) “Disliking Detachment” PDF Version
Homily for the 15thSunday of OT, Year B: Amos 7:12-15; Mk 6:7-13 (2018)
I will freely admit that I struggle with being attached to many of my material possessions. I would be lying if I said that I would not feel great distress and anger if I was to abandon many of my cherished possessions, such as my digital music collection, rare books that I have acquired, snowboard and climbing gear, pieces of religious art, and a few stuffed animals that I brought home from a visit to Japan. None of these items are vital to my survival and I could live without them, but I would be most distressed to do so and do honestly ask God that He will not make me part from them.
This is what makes reading this Sunday’s Gospel all the more difficult! Our Lord asked his first apostles and disciples to undertake a radical detachment from the things of this world, taking only the essentials on their evangelical journeys and not be weighed down by anything that would possibly hinder the proclamation of the Gospel. We continue to see this total detachment from the things of this world in various religious communities such St Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity or Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York to name but a few of the religious communities of men and women who live a vow of poverty and in doing so free themselves to be of total service to others and filled with spiritual riches.
Yet Our Lord does not condemn us for having material possessions. Our Church has long upheld the rights of individuals to acquire and maintain their own private property and possessions as being part of the Natural Law that governs the universe. Yet we must not brush aside those passages of Holy Scripture where Jesus commands His disciples to detach themselves from material possessions.
It was not because Jesus thought them to be intrinsically evil or that by having more than you need you would be on a sure and certain path to perdition. But Our Lord, who knows the depth of the human heart, warns us that a disordered attachment to the things of this world and the unnecessary acquisition of material things, can incline us to succumb to greed, diminishing charity within our hearts and no longer being attentive or willing to assist those in need.
In addition, Our Lord knows that an excessive attachment towards material things can also lead one towards idolatry, in so far as we begin to make the reason we live to be the acquiring of more things, in which we place our hope, our joy, our happiness, our self worth, our work and our all in all reason for existing. While it might seem strange for a Christian to think of themselves as someone who worships idols, since we have no statue of some Hindu god in our homes that we routinely offer sacrifice towards, a Christian can have other idols in their lives, be it some luxury car they cherish, some work of art that guard with the utmost care, or in my case a bag of smelly climbing gear and a beat up old snowboard.
Again, this is not to say that these material items necessarily become idols that separate us from God. They can all be used for the good and bring us closer to the Lord in a spirit of gratitude for having them! But if these things and countless others become our reason for existing, if they become the true source of our joy, if they become the reason we live and move and have our being, than slowly and quite subtly they can pull us away from God and lessen our desire to work with Christ in proclaiming the Gospel.
Nor is this merely a modern phenomenon in a world that has never seen such grand scale production and consumption of material items, to which Pope Francis warned that “the great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent and covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures and a blunted conscience.”
In the 8thcentury BC, the prophet Amos, called from his livelihood of caring for sycamore trees, was sent by God to speak to the People of Israel who had become seduced by idols. These idols were not only the foreign gods of their neighbours, but their covetous longing for wealth, one that caused them to neglect the needs of the poor and give themselves over to corrupt business dealings. Amos courageously rebuked Israel for their idolatry and contempt for the poor, and it is little surprise that many sought to kill him for showing many Israelites that while they said their daily prayers, offered God sacrifice and appeared to follow His Law, that their hearts did not belong to the Lord and had been given over to lifeless idols that could not save them.
In calling all Christians to detachment from the things of this world, so as to make us more ready and willing to be about the work of the Gospel, Our Lord’s challenging and at time unpleasant command to divest ourselves of unnecessary possessions should cause each of us to pause and ask how does the word of the Lord apply to my life.
Is the Lord asking me to be more prudent in my spending and stop acquiring things I simply do not need? Is He asking me to be more charitable to giving to those in need, be it among my family, community, parish or some charitable organization? Is He making me more aware of the ways that idols have creped into my life, be they things around my home, the clothes I wear, the sporting goods I use, or even the opinions, ideologies and beliefs that I hold and are at odds with teachings of Christ and His Church?
Every single Christian will be called to detach themselves from anything that separates them from God and dulls the fire of charity in our hearts. It is quite painful at times to confront this reality, but it also what can ultimately save our souls and bestow an incredible happiness that has been missing from our lives when we discover that true joy and meaning in life is not found in acquiring many things, but being detached and ready to be about the works of the Lord.