B - Pentecost - Twenty-sixth Sunday after
Doing All For The Glory Of God
by Rev. T. J. Brennan, S.C.L.
My dear brethren, there is a great truth, a consoling truth contained in these words, and I shall proceed to unfold it for you. Sometimes when we look around and see what we consider the plain or common things in nature – the stones, the weeds, the noxious insects, the destructive wild beasts, the naked savage – we think that they are a kind of spurious, unauthorized addition to nature; that God had nothing to do with them; or, at least, we do not immediately attribute them to God. We think of God, indeed, in connection with the things that are eminently useful or beautiful – the flowers, the stars, the sun; but we forget God when thinking of the others. And yet, you know that God is the Author of all things; not only of the heavens, but of the earth; not only of the works of grace, but of the works of nature; not only of the things that are noble and beautiful and useful, but also of the things that seem to us to be lowly or useless or noxious. “All things,” says St. John, “were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made.” The Apostle’s words admit of no exception.
We unconsciously make a similar mistake in matters of religion. We assume that God is honored by prayers and sacrifice, by devoutly assisting at Mass and devotions, by acts of Penance and mortification, by Sacraments and Sacramentals. And in this, of course, we are right. All these things have on them the trademark of religion; they were instituted for a religious end; and, when rightly performed, are highly pleasing to God. But we easily forget that the common callings and acts of our daily life – our recreation and our work, our buying and selling, our eating and drinking – that all these may be incorporated into our religion, that they may be all done to the glory of God and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We unconsciously assume that religion is a kind of income-tax we pay in prayer, and that we are thereby entitled to use the rest of our lives according to our own sweet will and pleasure. Whereas the fact is that God’s inscription is stamped on everything, and that nothing may be used except according to His and for His Honor.
This is the teaching of St. Paul. He tells us, indeed, to let our petitions be made known to God by prayer; he tells servants to subject to their masters, and masters to be just to their servants: he tells us to support one another in charity. About all these there can, of course, be no doubt. But he does not wish our religion to end here. In the texts I have quoted he comes down to the ordinary things of life; and he tells us that these ordinary things can be made part of our religious service. “All whatever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” There is nothing so common as eating and drinking, nothing we consider as so non-religious. And yet the inspired Apostle tells us that even these things are to be done in a holy manner and for a religious end.
And if you consider for a moment you will easily see that it should be so. For since all, even the common things of life, are from God: and since our bodily as well as our spiritual faculties are His gifts, it follows that these common things are to be receive with thanks, that these faculties are to be used according to His Laws. If we have an abundance of daily bread, does it not all come from God? If we have health to eat and digest, are not health and digestion God’s gifts also? If God should withdraw the sun or withhold the rain, where would be the bread? If he should chastise us with sickness, where would be our power to eat and assimilate. In the sight of God there is nothing unclean, nothing common, nothing that may not be built into his service. We can serve Him not only in our prayers, but in our recreations; not only at the altar rail, but also at the table.
And we should always remember that our religion is not a matter of certain days, or certain places, or certain acts. It is for all days and all places and for all acts. If we ever allow the idea to take root in our minds that God is only in the Church, or that He works only through the Sacraments or Sacramentals, we are doing Him an injustice; we are robbing Him of the credit due Him. In one sense every day is the Lord’s day, as well as Sunday; every house is the house of God, as well as the Church; every table is the table of the Lord as well as the altar. Not only our acts of religion or devotion or penance, but all our acts should be done unto the honor of God and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever else you do, do all to the glory of God.”
This is a thing which we Catholics are prone to forget. We have so many Sacraments of divine institution; so many Sacramentals blessed by the Church for pious uses; so many statues and images and indulgenced prayers; and all these are so highly reverenced by us, that we very often unconsciously assume that by these alone can we honor God, and that whatever is not a Sacrament or a Sacramental, cannot be used for religious purposes. And very often you will find Catholics who in the use of religious things are most regular and devout; but who in the plain things of life are altogether unconscious of God. They are Sunday-Catholics, or Church-Catholics or Prayer-Catholics; but they forget that God gave them, not only the Sunday, but the weekdays; not only their churches, but their homes; not only the Sacraments, but their food and drink; and that all are to be used to the glory of God, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our life is a complete whole; we cannot divide it into compartments, giving one part to God and the rest to the world. He Who has given us Laws for our deportment in church, has also given us Laws for our deportment at table; He Who is honored by our prayers and devotions, may also be honored by our eating and drinking. And we should try to cultivate a feeling of the presence and authority of God at all times and places and circumstances; we should try to live with a sense of His nearness to us, and of His knowledge of all we are saying and doing and thinking. Nothing could be a greater check against temptation and a greater comfort in our trials.
It would be a great check on us to remember the presence and authority of God in all things. The tendency of our nature is to push God to one side, to limit His sphere, and to free ourselves from His control. We feel that He has no right to intrude Himself or His law into our recreations or our pleasures; that Sunday is His day, and the Church His boundary line. And when we meet together with our friends to eat, drink, and make good cheer, the tendency is to forget God and His Law. But it cannot be. Even in our recreations the eye of God is on us; His law extends to the festivity as well as to the Church-service; and every over-indulgence in eating drinking, in song and jest, is noted down in the book of life. While Dives was feasting with his friends, the recording angel was busy; and afterwards when he asked for the drop of water to cool his parched tongue, he was reminded of his over-indulgence at the banquet and his neglect of the poor at his gate. When the covetous husbandman had announced how he was going to enjoy his wealth, the Voice from heaven said: “Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee; and whose shall these things be which thou has provided?” And so, even in our recreations we must not forget the honor of God and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And besides serving as a check, this thought of God’s presence should also serve as a comfort. If we consider the number and the quality of our religious acts and devotions, we shall find that they are very few, and lacking in purity and fervor. They are done hastily, and as a matter of routine and custom; a poor and mean offering to our heavenly Father. But why should our religion end with these? Why not bring the thought of God and the name of the Lord Jesus into our recreation and our work, into our eating and drinking? Did not Jesus Himself go to the banquet and the wedding-feast, and find time for a social hour with His friends? And was He not doing His Father’s will then as well as when He fasted in the desert or prayed on the mountain-side? Man need not only prayer and work, but also recreation; and God has amply provided the means. It would be a poor return to forget Him when using those means; to tell Him to stand aside till Sunday or prayer-time. When the Church was yet young and in its early fervor, we are told that the Christians “continued with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they took their meat with gladness and simplicity of heart.”
Such, my friends, is the teaching of the inspired Apostle. Not only our prayers, but our ordinary acts; not only Sunday, but every day of the week; not only our devotions, but our recreations; all belong to God; all are to be sanctioned by being done in His name. When we arise in the morning and make up our day’s program, it should, of course, include acts of prayer, and if possible, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. But whatever it includes, buying or selling, eating or drinking, all should be included in our service of God, dedicated to Him from whose bountiful Hand they come. “All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”