The 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – The Homily
On the surface, today’s First Reading from Ecclesiastes and The Gospel of Luke seem to be discussing money and material goods. Sometimes we hear people say that “money is the root of all evil.” That is really a misquote of 1 Timothy 6:10. The passage actually says that “the LOVE of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Thus it’s not a material thing – it’s a spiritual thing. And when we dig deeper into this, one of the spiritual demons related to money and material goods with which we wrestle is guilt.
Ravi Zacharias, founder and President of RZIM International Ministries, has two podcasts on this topic entitled, The Haunting Spectre of Guilt (Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here). I borrow from these two talks in addressing the subject of today’s homily.
Ravi begins his talk speaking about Orval Hobart Mowrer who was an American psychologist, professor of psychology and President of the American Psychological Association. When he was a professor and taught at the University of Illinois as well as Harvard and Yale, he said that guilt is one of the most baffling, and felt, struggles of human life. Psychologists, sociologists, physicians or theologians have tried to wrestle with this, often not successfully. Jettisoning absolutes by saying there are no transcendent values isn’t working. Disavowing it isn’t working.
Arthur Schlesinger was an American historian, social critic, public intellectual and advisor to several Presidents, candidates or Congressmen. Speaking at the introduction of a new President of Brown University, Schlesinger addressed the contemporary tendency to dismiss guilt as old fashioned, anachronistic or silly. He mentioned that some people will say that “The Fall” of Adam of Eve is a myth. Yet guilt is the foundation of the majority of the neuroses of our time. Guilt is real and fragmentary in its effects.
In dealing with guilt, people try three approaches:
- Expel it by irreverence.
- Smother it by arrogance
- Conceals it by cowardice
To try and expel guilt by irreverence is to attack the transcendent and do away with the moral source. Peter Zvi Malkin was “an Israeli secret agent, an intelligence legend who was part of the team that captured Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960.” When he finally found and captured Eichmann, Malkin asked Eichmann why he could kill a young boy who was a family member of Malkin’s but took care of his own son who was almost the same age. Eichmann replied, “He wasn’t a Jew.” The Jewish people are God’s chosen people. They have been chosen by God to bring His goodness, truth and beauty as well as a moral life into this world. If the Nazis were going to assuage their guilt and the guilt of their movement, they had to eradicate the source of this moral law – they had expel it by irreverence.
Ravi then presents two examples where people tried to smother guilt by pride and arrogance. John DeLorean was the extremely successful auto designer in the 1960’s who conceived the Firebird, Grand Prix and GTO models. Years later, totally bankrupt with his reputation in shatters, he shared with Pastor Ravi that “I lost my reputation, my money, my wife, children.” At one trial in which DeLorean was accused of financial malfeasance, the prosecuting team called one witness who, according to DeLorean, absolutely lied about DeLorean on the stand. DeLorean could not believe this guy was doing this. He thought “Why would he do this? How could he do this?” Then realized he had done the same thing – for a car.
Richard Dortch was the former Secretary-Treasurer for the Illinois District of the Assemblies of God as well as former President of the PTL Christian evangelical television network. Along with Jim Bakker he was later indicted on federal charges of fraud and conspiracy. Dortch eventually wrote several books entitled:
- Integrity – How I Lost It And My Journey Back.
- Loosing It All And Finding Yourself – How To Pick Up The Pieces And Start Anew.
- Fatal Conceit – A Bold Challenge to Everyone in this Power Hungry World.
- Secrets of the Heart – Finding A Way To A Joyous Life.
Dortch acknowledged how he had buried his guilt underneath his pride and arrogance. His words reflect those of Abraham Lincoln in his speech given on the inauguration of a “National Day of Fasting:
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
Finally, we try to conceal guilt by fear. We are afraid of admitting when we do wrong for fear of what others are going to say. Two demographics demonstrate this in different ways:
Teenagers are afraid of losing their friends, afraid of losing their “perceived” reputation or afraid of losing the affection of a boyfriend or girlfriend. Thus they tend to overindulge in alcohol, technology, sex or drugs.
Parents are afraid of losing the admiration of friends, neighbors or family members, losing their job or losing their marriage. They tend to overspend, particularly on their children. The rationale is that “if my children have everything they could possibly want, I must be a good parent.”
Both feel terrible about this it but both groups deny the guilt and bury it under their fear.
Ravi summarizes by saying that the concept of morality is intrinsically imbedded in us. By nature, human beings have moral capacity and the ability of self-determination. And so you don’t have to go to a statistical survey to know when you have done something wrong.
- Guilt expelled by irreverence is restless as it tries to do away with every moral law. Guilt expelled by irreverence is unlivable.
- Guilt smothered by pride and arrogance is unjustifiable.
- Guilt concealed by fear is unbearable.
Guilt surrendered to grace – is forgivable and transformable.
Look at Psalm 8 (paraphrased):
Lord God – You have set your glory in the heavens. When I consider your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place – who am I that you are mindful of me, a mere human being that you care for me?
You have made man a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honor. You made us rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under our feet.
A more literal translating is, “You have made man with only a very, very, little bit of God lacking in him.” Why are you – God – in the midst of all of created grandeur – paying attention to me?
It is because of the image in which you are created. You are the Temple of the Living God. What do you do with your past? Surrender it to grace. And you’ll find that Christ can free you from within, give you a sense of contentment, relieve you from your guilt and give you a peace the world cannot give. As we read in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Audio version of the homily is here: