What do I worth-ship?
Homily by Fr Daniel Russo
Just over a month ago today, I agreed to spend 90 days following a very unusual rule of life. It’s unusual because it’s by no means my usual way of living and it’s probably not the usual way of living for many people today.
Here are some of the rules; practice regular, intense exercise (at least 3 days a week), get a full night’s sleep (at least 7 hours), make time for lots of prayer, and gather each week with a group of others following the same regime.
Just so you know, kids, at this point, all the teachers in the hall think I’ve signed up to Alcoholics Anonymous.
But it’s not quite that.
They are just some of the rules. Actually, they are the easier ones. Now come the things that you can’t do in these 90 days.
No desserts, no sweets, no sweet drinks, no snacking between meals, no soft drinks, no alcohol, no video games, no apps, no unnecessary purchases,
.. no tv, no movies, no internet browsing, no meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, no nonessential texting…and my personal favourite…no hot water in the shower…ever!
I joked about Alcoholics Anonymous, but with some of the withdrawal symptoms I’ve experienced, the comparison is not so crazy.
If you’re anything like me when I first heard that list, you’ve already picked out the one thing that you would find the hardest to live without. For many of us, it wouldn’t even be just one thing. Those with sweet teeth are dying that there’s no dessert or soft drink. The social media junkies are already overcome with FOMO at the thought of giving up apps, the internet, and texting. And we don’t even need to mention the gamers in the room…they’ve already begun to feel faint.
The way we react to the idea of losing something is a good indicator of how much we value it. In fact, I think we can make it a little rule of thumb; the more worth we give to something, the harder we would find it to live without.
In our first reading we hear about a very important figure in the Old Testament. Hi name is Solomon. Solomon was the greatest King in the history of Israel. And for the Jewish community, the King – of all people – was meant to be closest to God.
Our reading describes a time in the life of King Solomon when he begins to abandon the one true God and start following the various gods of the neighbouring kingdoms. The First Reading says, “his heart was not wholly with the Lord his God” and “he turned to follow other gods.”
To get an idea of how big a deal this was, imagine if tomorrow Father Mani [local parish priest] stopped referring to Jesus at Holy Family parish and started seriously praying to Zeus, or Apollo, or Thor. That’s kind of what we’re dealing with here in the case of King Solomon.
We have a special word that we use for treating someone or something as God. It’s called “worship”. Solomon was meant to worship the one true God of Israel, but he went off and worshipped these alternative gods.
The word “worship” comes from an Old English word, woerth-ship. So it’s first use in the English language was to describe something as being worthy or of great worth.
Around the time of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the word was turned into a verb and directed towards God. To say, “I worship God” was just another a way of saying, “I believe God to be of greatest worth in my life”.
Notice that when King Solomon stopped worshipping the one God, he didn’t stop worshipping altogether. He exchanged God for lesser gods, for cheaper substitutes. To stop worshipping God means to give something else greater worth in life; to worship something else in God’s place.
King Solomon’s calling, and our calling as Christians, is to worship God. Worshipping God is actually the first and greatest of the Ten Commandments.
This doesn’t mean that we give no worth to other things in our life. Friends, sport, relaxation…these all have a place of worth. But to worship God is to give him the greatest worth.
Over the last 32 days I’ve really experienced the struggle of giving up a lot of the things on that list.
If we remember our earlier rule of thumb; the more worth we give to something, the harder we find it to live without, then I’ve come to notice that there are many things in my life to which I assign way too much worth.
But the main point of this rule of life is not to discover just how much worth with give to creature comforts, the main point is to get us thinking about how much worth we give to the One who is meant to be of greatest worth. How much do I worthship God?
We can all begin to squirm in our seats as we imagine the loss of Netflix or Instagram for 90 days, but what is our reaction at the thought of no God?
Remember, the more worth with give to something, the harder we find it to live without.
For a second, let’s imagine giving up God. How hard would we find it to live 90 days without Him?
For 90 days you couldn’t talk to God before going to sleep each night. For 90 days you couldn’t go to Mass on Sundays or during the week. For 90 days you couldn’t walk into the Church after school for a quick prayer. For 90 days you couldn’t speak the words of the Angelus or respond out loud at Mass.
What’s harder to give up for me? God or Netflix?
One of the many gifts Our Lord gives us, is the grace to place God at the top of our ladder of worth. The Syrophoenician woman in today’s Gospel comes from one of the regions where these lesser gods were worshipped, the kind Solomon had turned to. Now this woman represents the abandoning of all lesser gods for the one true God as she approaches Jesus with great faith and great love.
We all have different gods in our lives – different things we give great worth to. Jesus helps us to give all of them a proper order and a proper place. Jesus helps us to consider God of greatest worth in our lives; to worthship him above all else.
Perhaps our challenge this year, can be to work with Jesus to slowly push God up our ladder of worth. Remembering our little rule of thumb, the more worth we give to something, the harder we find it to live without.
This Lent, let’s make God a little harder to live without.