I worked at a major aerospace corporation many years ago within its extensive national and international communications department. As vast as this enterprise was, it operated by the simple principle of the single responsibility center. Generally, a single responsibility center is an operational unit led by one individual within the larger organization responsible for all the activities and tasks for that unit. “Multiheaded monsters create confusion and diffuse responsibility because no one is ultimately in charge,” I was told.
It’s a sound organizational rule but hardly a new idea. “No servant can serve two masters,” Jesus told his disciples. “He will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The word mammon, from the Aramaic, means money or possessions. Jesus personifies mammon here to expose its demonic, slavish grip on us. In fact, disordered material desires become like a demon that controls us.
Thus, Jesus’ implied question: to whom will we give our allegiance? Jesus’ words are not some abstract or academic question. Materialism characterizes our Western culture. Materialism embraces those values and goals focused on wealth, possessions, image, and status. Like the mythical Greek sirens whose singing lured sailors to their deaths in dangerous waters, mammon lures us to hazardous values, material possessions, and physical comfort over spiritual comforts. If we think we can somehow share our service to God and things of this world, we will become spiritually weak.
God desires that we come to know God, to love God, and to serve God in this world so that at the end of our lives here on earth, we will abide in the joyful eternal presence of God. Abiding in God is our ultimate purpose, our goal. Taking a page from Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas would refer to God as the highest and eternal Good. Had Aquinas been a corporation organizer today, he might have called God our single responsibility center.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.