Do you have more than one favorite team? When I was growing up and through my undergraduate years, I was a fan of the University of Missouri. Didn’t go to any games in person, but watched them on television in the days before every football and basketball game was broadcast. Then I went to the University of Kansas for graduate school, and my loyalty started to shift. I still rooted for Mizzou, but not when they played the Jayhawks. Eventually, my loyalty was firmly shifted away, and now I’m beyond being against them, I’m indifferent to how the Tigers are doing now since they chose to jump conferences out of greed.
No man can serve two masters is a famous command of Jesus. As a joke, I’ve heard it’s the New Testament command against bigamy, that no MAN can serves two (female) masters. Sooner or later, the needs of two different masters is going to conflict, and if you’re trying to do what’s best for both you have to give up on one or both of them at some point in time. Usually what happens is the loyalty to one erodes while the other gets stronger, as Jesus points out. In the end, you end up with one master in reality. The one you care for, the one you like better, the one who has your first loyalty.
The problem with Sin is that’s what we’re doing serving two masters. One of them is Christ. The other can be many things, many kinds of idolatry. It can be an idolatry of sports, or games, or some kind of self-indulgence. It can be political, a kind of fan club around a famous person, idealizing someone as the most attractive, the best, or someone we love and want to make our own. It’s common worship of the Golden Calf, which is the one Jesus refers to in “serving Mammon”, making an idol of money as Pope Francis puts it. The idolatry at the core is putting ourselves on the pedestal in some way, an idolatry of self. It’s more than reasonable self-interest, it’s making yourself your own hero, your own priority above and beyond everyone and everything else.
That was the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, that they would be like God. That’s the Original Sin we inherit, making ourselves divine.
Is God enough? We need reassurance needed that God is enough, that we can make a leap of faith and pay attention to Him alone. His promise in the last part of the Gospel is important. We don’t need to turn elsewhere for what we need, and if we think we need something God’s can’t provide, then do we need it? Faith tells us we can depend on God’s mercy, goodness and love for what we need.
We start Lent on Wednesday. Yippee, it’s time to get serious. Lent is a time we can recognize the other masters that try to get our attention, gain our loyalty and move us toward them exclusively. Lent is a time we pray more, give up things that are distractions for us, turn ourselves inside out as we try to care for those in need. The purpose of Lent is to keep our loyalty on the one master who deserves our love, our attention and our service. We do what’s needed in Lent to help us focus on God: that should be the purpose for everything we do. We don’t make ourselves suffer just because we think we ought to suffer. We discipline ourselves so we don’t get distracted from who’s important: Jesus Christ.
Lent is a time to remember who comes first in our lives, and do what we can to make sure we’re acting on what’s important. Lent is the time to pay attention to the one who gives himself completely to us, as Jesus does in the Eucharist every time we gather. It’s isn’t a time to be cruel to ourselves because we’re sinners, we’re sinners no matter what. It’s a time of focus, it’s a time of commitment, it’s a time to return the love that Jesus has given us.