Is God our true stronghold?

Homily for February 26, 2017 (8th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

A couple of weeks ago, 11 year-old Takiya Holmes was part of a tragic headline, but a few days later she became a hero.    Takiya was sitting in a car on a Chicago street with her mom, aunt and younger brother a when a stray bullet came crashing through a window and ended her short life.  She was one of three children killed in our city on the same day.  The others were a 12 year-old girl who died after being hit by another stray bullet while playing basketball and a 2 year-old boy who died when the car he was riding in was sprayed with gunfire. 

Three more young lives lost in Chicago to seemingly senseless violence and toxic mixture of gangs, drugs guns, hopelessness, callousness and a loss of respect for the sacredness of human life.  It’s happened so often we’ve almost become numb to it lest we cry out despairingly with Zion in our reading from Isaiah:  “The LORD has forsaken me; my LORD has forgotten me….”

Thanks to the generosity of her family, however, Takiya Holmes will forever be more than a statistic, a face on a t-shirt or the inspiration for yet another street pole shrine of teddy bears, candles, cards and flowers.  Today, Takiya’s heart is beating inside someone else.  Her liver, kidneys, pancreas and lungs have also been given to others who needed them. 

Few of us will ever be faced with a choice like that Takiya Holmes’ family had to make, especially under such horrific circumstances.  But that doesn’t mean we won’t have our own share of stark and life-altering choices.  In fact Jesus presents us with one today:  “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.” Mammon, according to scripture scholars, is more than money.  Rather, it refers more broadly to our possessions and how, if we love them too much, they can become preoccupations and ultimately come to possess us.  They can be as complex as a stock portfolio or as simple as a mobile phone.

As the season of Lent approaches, I’ve been thinking of what might be mammon in my own life—electronic devices like my computer, mobile phone and tablet—how my life sometimes seems as if it is ruled by them and how I might “fast” from using them, especially  in the late night and early morning hours.   A friar recently noted the hour at which I sent a text message and asked, “Did you really send this message at 3:00 in the morning?”  (Answer:  I couldn’t sleep.  I wonder why?  Hmmm…..)

As what St. Paul called “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,” we are called to heed the words of Jesus and “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” in the faith that our basic human needs—physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual—will be satisfied.  We trust in a God who, Isaiah assures us, can never forget us or fail to have compassion for us.

In Whom or what are our souls at rest?  Where do we look for salvation?  When the chips are down, is God our true stronghold and our rock? May we be as generous in giving ourselves to God in life as the family of Takiya Holmes was in sharing her with others in her death.  +