Homily for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
Few are those who enjoy filling out their annual tax forms
and fewer still are those who enjoy paying taxes.
But even Jesus says that if we owe something to Caesar,
we have to pay it.
Jesus, however, doesn’t send us any forms to help us figure out
what belongs to God and how much we owe him.
Of course not.
If we ask the question, “What belongs to God?”
- the right answer is everything.
If we ask, “What do we owe God” the answer is
– well, at least a lot more than we probably want to give back!
Can you think of one thing in the universe, one thing on earth,
one thing in your home, among your possessions,
one thing in your life that truly belongs to you – and not to God?
Is there anything you and I have that, should God ask us for it,
we could legitimately say,
“Sorry, Lord – that’s mine – you’ll have to get your own.”
Every good in our lives is a gift
- and every good gift comes from God.
Every gift from God is, if you will, on loan to us:
something for us to be grateful for, to reverence,
to use well, to share - or to give away.
And if you’re still sitting there trying to come up with
something you think of as yours
that doesn’t fit this category,
then keep in mind that even life (your life, my life)
is a gift of God on loan to us: a gift to be grateful for,
to reverence, to use well, to share - or to give away.
So I don’t need a W-2 or a 1099 or a 1040 to figure out
what belongs to God, what I owe God.
Everything I have, all my stuff, belongs to God
- and I owe God - for the whole of it.
When we borrow something from a neighbor
(a rake, a special pan, a video, a tool, a book, a bike)
we can expect the neighbor to come calling
to collect what was loaned to us.
Imagine if we saw the Lord walking up our driveway,
coming by to pick up of some of the gifts he’s loaned us…
Would we turn off the lights, shush the kids,
stay away from the windows
and hope he’d think we weren’t home?
And if he knocked on the door and surprised us
would we graciously open up
and hand over what he came to claim?
Would we be embarrassed by how much of his stuff we have?
How freely would we let it go?
Would what he’d loaned us still be in good shape?
Or might it be broken, abused or lost?
Of course, we don’t have to imagine such scenes
because the Lord is always calling on us
to gratefully care for and respect, use well and share
- or to give away to others - what’s on loan to us from him.
And this is especially true for us who, as we pray every week,
“have more than we need.”
There’s the hard part.
Most of us do, indeed, have more than we need.
So if the Lord comes to claim some of what he gave us,
we’re still left with an abundance of goods.
It’s our tightly held sense of ownership
that keeps us from freely sharing
and giving away to others - even from our surplus.
It’s ownership that leads us to become collectors, even hoarders
of “stuff” – even when we’ve got more “stuff” than we truly need.
We’re only about two months away from Christmas.
Over the next 60 days we’ll spend a lot of our money
(which, itself, is a gift on loan to us from God)
we’ll spend hundreds and thousands of dollars
buying more stuff for people who already have too much stuff
and who may not really want (and often don’t need) - any more stuff.
And in return, those same folks will give us more stuff
to add to the stuff we already have too much of.
What belongs to God? Everything belongs to God.
Everything I have, everything you have,
belongs to God and is on loan to us:
all gifts to be grateful for, to reverence, to use well,
to share - or to give away.
When the Pharisees handed Jesus that Roman coin, he asked them,
“Whose image is on this and whose inscription?”
And they answered, “Caesar’s.”
Jesus might well ask you or me
to hand him something, anything we have
and ask us, “Whose image is on this and whose inscription?”
And whether it’s marked or not, we could truthfully reply,
“Everything I have bears your image, Lord,
because everything I have is your gift to me.
And everything I have bears your inscription, Lord,
because it’s all on loan to me.”
For weal or for woe, even the dollar bills in my pocket
bear the inscription, “In God We Trust.”
No one understood this divine economy better than Jesus
who considered everything he had, including his life
- a gift to be shared.
In the Eucharist, his Body is broken for us in Bread,
his Blood poured for us from the Cup.
In the sacrament of the altar he is shared,
given away again and again, for others, for all, for you and for me.
Jesus didn’t sit down with some forms
to figure out how much of himself he was going to give us.
He owed us nothing but he gave his all for us,
withholding nothing, though we deserved not a thing.
When the Lord comes to claim even some
of all he has given us on loan,
may we freely and gratefully hand back to him
all that is his.
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