Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fr Georges Massouh: Worship without Love is Useless

Arabic original here.

Worship without Love is Useless

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).

Christianity does not accept a duality or multiplicity of gods. There is not a god for every human lust. There is not a good and another of evil. There is not a god of war and another of wine and another of fertility... Nor is Christianity a religion that accepts duplicity of behavior in life according to the needs of worldly life. In Christianity, worshiping God requires you to put your hope nowhere else but in Him.

Worshiping God means that you worship nothing apart from Him. But also, according to the words of the Lord Christ, there are two inseparable commandments that cannot be fulfilled one without the other, and unless they are practiced, this worship is not sound: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

We do not need to be reminded the neighbor is not only our neighbor in the flesh, but every person we encounter in our daily life. Our neighbors are not only those who share our religion, our sect, our nation, our color, our race or our sex... Our neighbor is every person created by God in His image and likeness. The quality of being a neighbor increases the more this person needs us.

Worshiping God, then, first of all requires you to love your fellow man, not only in word but in deed. This means that you prefer nothing over him, not even your money. For this reason Christ indicated that the sole impediment preventing someone from loving his fellow man is his idolatrous attachment to his money. Christ made Himself equal to the needy when He said, "For I was hungry, and you gave Me food... I was a stranger and you took Me in" (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). Truly loving God requires you to love the hungry and the refugee who has no shelter, not only in word or thought, but in deed-- that is, with your money, with everything you possess.

Saint John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 407) said, "Here Christ calls money a lord not because of its own nature, but because of the wretchedness of those who submit to its yoke... How wretched are those condemned from the likes of those who abandon God as their Lord so that they may be painfully ruled by money." In reality, money is not an evil in itself, but it becomes an evil when one treats it as an end, rather than a means to a higher end: the love of man. Money becomes an evil when the love of it becomes stronger than people's love for each other.

At the end of his discourse about money, Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). Of this saying, the Blessed Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (d. 435), says, "When Jesus said, 'Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,' He clearly indicated that seeking other things comes after that, not in the sense of seeking them at a later time, but because they are of secondary importance. What we seek first is the Good and what we seek after that is what we need. But seeking what we need comes by way of realizing the Good."

Truly worshiping God requires one to regard money as a trust from God that he spends in the places where it must be spent, for Jesus' beloved ones: the needed, the vulnerable, refugees, those who are tormented... One only owns his money if he spends it. One is owned by money-- and is not its owner-- when he saves it for himself, thinking that it ensures his future and the future of his children and grandchildren... Truly worshiping God requires you to love man first. 

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