I would like to offer some thoughts on something I personally struggle with. The clue is to be found at the bottom of the Divine Mercy Image. I would like to speak about “trusting in God.”
Jesus tells His disciples that they cannot “serve” two masters. We must decide to serve either “God or Mammon”. It seems an obvious choice. However…even though we know that God is a loving and merciful Father, and that we are totally dependent on Him to exist…. the use of the word “serve” still makes us feel a bit uncomfortable. Some translations of this text are even stronger, speaking about becoming “a slave” to God. We struggle, like St Peter before us, when the Lord asks us to “put out into the deep.” We struggle to TRUST that God is a better option. We possibly feel, like our first parents, that giving ourselves completely to God will only limit our freedom, somehow restrict us, and possibly even make life boring.
BUT let us look at the alternative. To whom shall we go?
Mammon is typically thought to refer to wealth or money, but we can extend this meaning to anything that pulls us away from God. We must not allow money or attachments rule us. They are created for us and must serve us. Our dignity, as children of God, is far greater than that. Attachments can have a negative impact on our lives. They can affect our judgement, and influence the decisions we make. They can be an unwelcome distraction in our relationships, a third person in a marriage, and they can most importantly affect our relationship with Our Loving Father. Jesus is telling us that, God must be the center of our lives. We must choose the things of God, the good. These will make us happy, give us peace and joy.
Recently I was lucky to meet a man called Connie. He told me that he suffered from alcohol addiction for many years. He described it as a form of slavery. It consumed and controlled him, and his wife and seven children suffered greatly as a result. Connie knew that he needed to be free of this attachment. In desperation, he went into a church, sank to his knees and begged Our Lady for help. Today, thank God he is a free man, he is a minister of the Eucharist, and God is the center of his life. Only God can give us peace and joy, and Connie discovered this.
Big attachments always have to start somewhere of course. A bank robber will began his career stealing much smaller things, before he gradually progresses to banks. St John of the Cross tells us that even small attachments affect our peace, our freedom, and lead us away from God. He gave the example of a small bird being tied down, and how it does not matter if it is tied down by a big rope or a small thin thread, the bird is tied, it cannot fly, it is held back, it cannot flourish. It cannot soar as God wants. The bird therefore does not realise its potential. Attachments have the same effect on us. They can blur our vision, and they distract us from what is important. They can bring us away from God.
Jesus asks us to choose God as He wants us to enjoy His peace and be happy, not to limit us. If I trust God, and He is the center of my being, then I will be happy and be at peace. If I equate happiness with money, and allow it to rule me, what happens when I lose some money? My whole world collapses. It is worth asking ourselves, is there something else in my life that takes the place of God, or moves me away from Him? Is there something I just can’t do without? Is my concept of happiness equated to something other than God?
Jesus does not want us to miss out on the joy of trusting Him. When we serve other things instead of God we become empty and sad. God has created us for Himself, so only in Him can we find true fulfillment. Jesus’ peace is one the world cannot give, and as St Augustine famously said “our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” Perhaps the great Doctor of the Church, St Theresa of Avila has an answer for me, to help me trust more in God. She said that, true humility is knowing who I am. In other words that God is the Creator and that I am the creature. If we understand who we are, we understand our limits, and that trusting God is the only way.
Let us take leave today with a firm commitment to try and trust more in God’s goodness, and take solace from the rewards promised through the prophet Jeremiah:.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.