Monday, August 8, 2011

“All that I know of tomorrow is that Providence will rise before the sun.”

"Providence is wiser than you, and you may be confident it has suited all things better to your eternal good than you could do had you been left to your own option."

Gospel text (Mt 17,22-27):
As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee,
Jesus said to them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,
and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”
And they were overwhelmed with grief.

When they came to Capernaum,
the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said,
“Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes,” he said.
When he came into the house, before he had time to speak,
Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon?
From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax?
From their subjects or from foreigners?”
When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him,
“Then the subjects are exempt.
But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook,
and take the first fish that comes up.
Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax.
Give that to them for me and for you.”

In today’s gospel, God is reminding the Israelites that everything they have actually belongs to God. The people have the use of them, but in the end they are God’s – “the heavens as well as the earth and everything on it”. Everything. That means not just our possessions, but our talents, our heritage, our opportunities – all lent to us – all gifts. Our task is to use it all as God would. The richness that we have been given is in one sense a test – but better understood, I think, as an opportunity – an opportunity to live out our vocation to share God’s goodness with everyone we encounter.

It really pinches though when God says “. . . befriend the alien . . . feeding and clothing them.” We have things the alien doesn’t. We have relative security, relative prosperity, relative safety, relatively greater opportunities. All of them gifts. Why should we have them and the alien not? Precisely so we can share – share, not jealously guard. Precisely so we can show, in concrete terms, God’s own incredible generosity. We share not because we’re generous, but because what we share was not really ours to begin with. How can the world know who God is if it doesn’t see Him acting in those who claim to believe in Him?

But what about illegal aliens? We have laws, laws that ought to be obeyed. Yes, but laws are human institutions, necessary for human societies to function in an orderly way, and proper respect for law is certainly a virtue. However, it was not God who declared who could immigrate and who could not. It was not God who set quotas. Necessary as regulations must be, they are not absolute. To make them so is to make an idol of law where it is instead a tool – a tool to be used wisely.

This interaction between God’s laws and human laws is tricky. There is no single right answer. All we can do is pray God to show us the way – that, and be willing to share our lives and “our” possessions always and everywhere.

Reflection: Our walk is often different than our talk. Could someone deduce from our actions that Jesus is Savior, Lord, and God? Do our actions speak louder than our words about Jesus? Give Him life-service, not lip-service (Mt 15:8).

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