Sunday, October 22, 2017

“Your life is not meant to be used in exchange for mundane things like houses and cars but to purchase greatness.”

“The world says: "You have needs -- satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don't hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more." This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.” ― Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Brothers Karamazov

Gospel Text: (MT 22:15-21)
The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
"Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion,
for you do not regard a person's status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?"
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
"Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax."
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?"
They replied, "Caesar's."
At that he said to them,
"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God."

God respects our freedom. This is why Jesus asked the Pharisees and Herodians in today's Gospel reading, "Whose head is this, and whose name?" Jesus poses a profound question that invites us to reflect deeper on the implications of their confusion concerning the many tensions between God and the world.

This tension between God and the world prompts us to ask the same question. We face the same dilemma in choosing between God and the world. How do we "give the Lord glory and honor" in the midst of our daily preoccupations in the world? How do we fully serve God in the midst of our many other secular and necessary obligations? Do we reject God when we work very hard for our families?

 Ultimately Jesus asks us the same questions he asked the Pharisees and Herodians in today's Gospel reading, "Whose head is this, and whose name?" "Whose image is stamped in our hearts, God or the world?"

Realistically speaking we are not being asked to let go of our belongings and properties to serve God only. Jesus asks us about our priorities in our lives. Do we give first priority to "giving the Lord glory and honor?" The question calls us to reflect on what we do and whether they lead us to or away from God.

St. Ignatius of Loyola calls this type of reflection "discernment." For indeed "Man is created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created." (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, First Principle and Foundation.)

Our dilemma is not any tension between God and the world. Rather it is how we make use of the world in praising, reverencing and serving God.

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