“Jesus told his disciples: ‘No one 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 God and mammon.”
The issue Jesus presents us with this Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time is what idolatry means, what constitutes it. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us in his chapter on Idolatry, “It belongs to superstition to exceed the due mode of divine worship, and this is done chiefly when divine worship is given to whom it should not be given.
This brings us to defining divine worship. St. Thomas never directly defines this concept. On the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa, St. Thomas devotes a section, from Question 81, to Question 100 to the question of religion and then devotes chapters to the various parts of what he believes divine worship is.
The first section is devotion. “Devotion is derived from “devote” [The Latin ‘devovere’ means ‘to vow’]; wherefore those persons are said to be “devout” who, in a way, devote themselves to God, so as to subject themselves wholly to Him.” In essence, how you spend your time and who you believe is controlling your life is the person you are devoted to. This is an act of divine worship.
The second section is prayer, which is spoken reason. “Prayer is an uprising of the mind to God or a petitioning of God for what is fitting.” In our context, prayer is uprising our mind to the person we perceive to be God and asking what we think is fitting. It is our verbalizations of what we want and to the force, we perceive capable of delivering it.
The third section relates to adoration. “The chief part of adoration is the internal devotion of the mind, while the secondary part is something external pertaining to bodily signs.” The Greek word for adoration Jesus uses in St. Matthew comes from our root, “Anther,” which is the male part of a flower. “Anther,” is related to odor, as in the succulent scent of the flower and therefore of our incense at Mass. It also relates to that salt of how we are to be salt, the succulent odor we bring of God to the world. In our context, adoration refers primarily to the inner direction to which we direct our minds. The one adored is the one we attribute to bringing the succulent aspects of our lives. In the outer sense, the one we adore is the one we serve.
As we meditate upon Divine Worship we look at Deuteronomy 5:6, part of the Ten Commandments. Remember “I am the NAME your God, who brought you out of the land of Oppression, out of the house of menial labor.” Divine Worship, Divine holding as worthy means taking a day off of everything else and remembering our rescue from oppression, the pomp and the wars of 18th and 19th century Europe. God is our Dominus, our dominate one who saves us from over there, wherever that is, and brings us here. He is the one who rescues us from them, whoever they are, and not the military. “He makes his sun rise on the rotten and the beautiful, and causes rain to fall on the charitable and the uncharitable.” God is the great provider, not our own efforts, not rugged individualism or the Protestant work ethic, and not unseen and unheard of stockholders from New York or any other place.
We need to mention another idol, another trinity. That is of Mercury, Mars, and Moneta Juno. These are otherwise known as the Markets, Military, and Money/Mammon. St. Thomas Aquinas has three words for a god, Dominus, Divine, and Deus.
Dominus gives us two words in English, Dominate, and Domicile. God is the Father or head of the domicile. He is the one with power to act. When we divine things, we know them in ways normal people cannot know them. When we argue that the markets are more able to decide what is in our welfare, we argue that the markets a supernatural force more able to divine than we as the children of God, representing the Divine. When we argue that only the purpose of government is to defend us, we argue that the government is Dominus. Molech was a Canaanite God and it is the Semitic word for a king. When we argue that the markets have the desire to accomplish what is in our welfare, we argue that they are Deus.
Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, is said to have founded American Capitalism. Forget that he lived in Britain in 1776 when he wrote the book. Forget that he sided with his countrymen against the Continentals in our war of the revolution. Forget that our Constitution has no economic system mentioned in it. It has only the Natural Law theories basing society on the pursuit of the General Welfare. Adam Smith wrote, and is strongly supported by the followers of the Market, the Military, and Mono Juno:
By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security. By directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain; and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.[i]
There is an invisible hand in this theory. It is a supernatural force deciding man’s best interest, divine, with the power, Dominus, and the desire, Deus, to accomplish its ends. Wise merchants, per Adam Smith, trust the invisible hand. It is idolatry. Mercury was the god of both merchants and thieves. In their own ways, merchants, salesmen are thieves, telling us anything to accomplish their goals.
In our Gospel for the Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus uses a rhetorical device known as, “The General, the Particular, and the General. The first general part is the part about serving two masters. The second general part refers to God’s kingdom. The middle part does not refer to the fuzzy things we and others refer to as gods, but to particular things, we worry about having and not having.
Using another rhetorical device known as Kal Vahomer, or light and heavy, Jesus argues, “Is not life more than…””Food and the body more than clothing? Are not you more important than they?” “Learn from the way the wild flowers grow… They are more than Solomon in all his clothes.
Jesus argues that the first idol is the things we crave. This craving of things, this greed that drives the merchants, is what Adam Smith holds as his top value. This is what Jesus condemns. Jesus tells us to not serve two masters, the invisible hand, and God. We will grind our teeth at the one and welcome the other, or we will savor the one and belittle the other.
Matthew 13:24 is the Parable of the tares. Here, Jesus tells us that God causes the rain and the sun to fall upon the rotten and the beautiful. The trinity worshipers are among us. They may even provide most of the money coming into our parishes. We are not to fight them, though we do have the moral obligation to point out their errors. Ezekiel 3:17-21 tells us that. “If I tell the Russia, those who think themselves first, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the Russia from their rotten conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their error, but I will hold you responsible for their blood.”
Still, those of us who have suffered at the hand of the trinity of Mercury, Mars, and Moneta Juno suffer greatly. We, the poor, Hispanic, African American, Appalachian, Native American, and others, cry out to heaven, “”The NAME has forsaken me; my NAME has forgotten me.” This from our first reading. We go with holes in the soles of our shoes and in the souls of our lives, tears in our clothes and in our relationships. We often go without clothing or basic dignity. We cry out to heaven.
God responds, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” The time will come when God will remove the tares of the market worshipers from our midst. Then we will sit at the true feast, the one we celebrate every Sunday at Mass.
At one time in this nation, we had blue laws. We took one day off per week and spent it studying Torah and Gospel. Now we serve the invisible hand. Now we take one hour per week off to attend Mass, and for most, not even that. Many employers demand that we work on our day of rest. I speak first hand in this regard. The state supports the market trinity in this regard. I speak first hand here.
At one time we put God first, neighbor second and things third. Now we put money first, what we buy with money Our devotion is to be to promoting life, to promoting the Living God, the God of Life and his kingdom.
Our prayer is to be for the kingdom. Our adoration is to be for the God of Life and his kingdom. This is more important than physical things. second, and people third, if at all.
When Jesus recites the Shema in Mark 12 as the Great Commandment, he recites, “Hear Israel, God is Almighty. God is One. Love God with all your hearts, all of your animate being, and with all of your measure.” If we hold our strength as the way we measure ourselves, we love God with our strength. When we measure ourselves with our wealth, we love God with our wealth. When we measure ourselves with our knowledge, we love God with our knowledge. God comes first and God comes last for Jesus. Where does he sit with us?
[i] Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (p. 168). University Of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.