Fr Toby’s Homily for Radio Maria Celebration Mass 5 November 2022
Written by Radio Maria England on 15/11/2022
‘It is a great joy to me, in the Lord, that at last you have shown some concern for me again; though of course you were concerned before, and only lacked an opportunity. I am not talking about a shortage of money . . . . ’ (Phil. 4:10-11)
As I read the letter from St Paul, I have to admit to feeling a tinge of jealousy. He speaks about having enough money for the mission he has to do and implies that he doesn’t really need any further donations for the moment.
That’s certainly not the case with us at Radio Maria England at the moment, that’s why there will be an offertory collection! But be generous in the collection is not the main message of today’s homily . . . it’s just the subliminal one, now made explicit!
Because today is a celebration and a thanksgiving. The two are, when you think about it, intimately connected. We celebrate because we have occasion to give thanks, and today we celebrate and give thanks for three years of Radio Maria England and there are many people here today to whom much thanks is owed.
Now it’s normally at this point where somebody talks about there being many to thank, that the speaker says, ‘but there’s so many to thank that there’s not enough time, or there’s so many to thank that I’d be bound to miss out some of you’ and he or she then adds ‘but you know who you are’.
Neither of those though are the reason I’m not thanking you all by name, I’m not doing that because I’m waiting to see how much you put in the collection!
Obviously, I’m only joking . . . a bit . . . no really, I can’t thank everyone because even in the short time I’ve been director I’ve become conscious that there are volunteers, donors, regular guests who I haven’t even met yet. I’m hugely conscious that there is more that goes into the running of this beautiful work of Our Lady than I am yet aware of. And finally, there are our listeners without whom we’re a voice in the wilderness, and who make this a community with a Radio. Not just a radio station. Mass today is being offered for all of you who in so many ways make this work possible.
Now in our readings today, it’s not just St Paul, who is talking about money, it’s Jesus too. Today is the third day in a row of Jesus on money, from the Gospel of Luke. And today is the first of them that the accountants are probably not wincing about malpractice or waste.
Yesterday Jesus gives, as a good example, the man who writes down debts that are not even his to alter so as to curry favour with debtors. I believe the technical name for it is fraud or perhaps embezzlement!
Then Thursday, we’ve got Jesus exalting the woman who seems to spend more money on the party to celebrate finding the drachma than she’s recovered by finding it.
Obviously, thanks to your generosity in the collection, we’re not going to be in the same position, with our expenses for the birthday celebrations today!
Are you beginning to understand why they asked a priest from a mendicant order to be the new priest director . . . shameless begging!?!?!
But I’m not only joking, we should be shameless about our need, shameless before God and shameless before one another, to be any other way is a form of pride.
Our Christian community can only take its proper shape when we’re honest before God and one another about our needs. How can I love you unless you know what I need, how can I love you unless I know what you need?
Well, Radio Maria is a response of generosity to the need of the stranger for the gospel. It needs money, but its point is not to earn money. Earthly money is the instrument we use, but the music we play is celestial. Okay, that’s a little corny, but the point about money as an instrument gets to the heart of so much of Christ’s teaching about money. He does not despise it, he does not scorn it, but he says use it well. Money is meant to be used, because money is not its own end. Just as power is not bad, but power is not its own end, and when power and money are made their own ends or exclusively self-serving, they corrupt.
Jesus tells us to use money ‘tainted as it is’ for a good end. Why tainted? I’m not sure. Perhaps before the advent of money the temptation to horde, even in the face of the obvious need of others, was not so strong?
But money, tainted or not, most definitely can be worshipped, or it can be used in aid of worship. The generosity that makes Radio Maria possible is not just about making a beautiful Radio station for those who already worship God, it is about providing the opportunity for worship of God for those who do not know Him, but crave Him and seek him in places and things in which He will never be found.
Scrolling through on digital somewhere between Magic and Virgin Radio someone might just stumble upon us, and they might hear what they didn’t want to hear, but what they did need. The Gospel is not always first heard as good news, the call to repentance rarely is. As someone once said, ‘the Gospel should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’.
Our society has not lost its need for God – because that would be to cease to be human – but it has all too often forgotten that a God exists who can satisfy our deepest need. The need is still there and it burns, but not knowing God, we no longer know ourselves, and we do not know what will satisfy our need. You have to know what something is in order to know what to feed it. It was in Julian of Norwich I first encountered the necessity of knowing what kind of thing something is, and being kind to it. Mistake your dog for a goldfish or vice versa at feeding time and it will not go well! You’ll have a hungry dog and a pretty messy fish tank.
And you don’t have to look far to see all the confusion about the human person that has resulted from our forgetting of the only food that will truly nourish because we have forgotten ourselves. And we have forgotten because we cannot truly know ourselves without reference to God.
We emphasise that we are no different from other creatures, but forget that to be a creature is to be created, to have received the gift of life. Too rarely do we dwell upon the giftedness of things. Maleness and femaleness no longer something received, but something to be created, language no longer descriptive of the reality of the person, but creative of the person. You have been created, given the gift of life, you have been created human, you are a particular kind of thing, not just anything. You have been given the gift of human life, and you have been given the gift of knowing your Creator: the only logical response to this wondrous gift is worship.
Our society, however, thinks that we have outgrown worship, but we cannot choose but to worship. David Foster Wallace, makes this point in an address I first heard over a decade ago, and return to again and again. And, if the culture has taught your kids or others that you know that they’re too clever to worship or believe in God, but that it hasn’t dawned on them that they now simply worship something or someone less than God; have them listen to his speech, This Is Water, and then have a conversation. Discuss the big things at home: not just what did you do today, but why what you did today matters. Foster Wallace himself was an agnostic, but here is what he had to say:
Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship . . . is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.
The beauty of Radio Maria, the beauty of your generosity is that we might just be the jolt that knocks somebody out of the unthinking worship of idols into the true thinking worship of God. We might arrest the slide somewhere between Magic and Virgin Radio. That’s a beautiful thing to contribute to, that’s the sort of gift which will see you welcomed as friends into the tents of eternity.
‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity’ (Lk 16:9)