Homily for 10/22: It all belongs to God

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Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily

Over the last couple of months
I’ve received some criticism of my homilies
and the critique has been interesting.
Some people have complained my preaching’s been too political
while others have complained
that I haven’t more directly addressed
the political situation.
The preacher’s task is not to tell others
how to think or act politically.
Rather, my task is to bring the message of the gospel to bear
upon the political circumstances of the day.
The problem is that the events of the moment
are hot button issues
and simply naming them can lead some to believe
that the preacher is taking one side or the other.
In this sense, politics, like beauty,
is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

Consider then how carefully I want to approach today’s gospel!
 “What belongs to Caesar?”  
“What belongs to God?”
Well, fortunately, there’s only one answer to the question
and it’s as simple as it is demanding -
and it does have political implications.
The answer?   Everything, ultimately, belongs to God.

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 exclusively to you
– and not to God?
Is there anything you and I have that,
should God ask us for it, we might legitimately say,
 “Sorry, Lord, but 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,
and most of all, to use and to use well
-which means to enjoy, to share and often - to give away.
Keep in mind that even life  (your very life and mine)
life a gift of God on loan to us: a gift to be enjoyed,
to be grateful for, to reverence, to use, to share
- and yes, to give away to others.
Everything I have - all my stuff and all that I am -
belongs to God  - and I owe God - for the whole of it.

Yes indeed, there are indeed times
when something of what I’ve received from God
belongs to, is to be handed over to, shared with Caesar -
as in the case of taxes,
the question posed to Jesus in this gospel.
But at the bottom line,
everything we have - first belongs to God.
Suppose for a moment that in determining our own politics
each of us began with this simple premise:
 “Everything belongs to God and to my neighbor.”

When we borrow something from a friend
 (some money, a tool, a book, a bike)
we can expect that eventually our friend will 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 things
we have on loan from him…
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 -
and think of as our own?
How freely would we let it go?
Would whatever he had loaned us still be in good shape?
Or might he find it broken, abused or lost?

In fact, might the Lord come to claim some things
we’d forgotten we’d been given?

Well, we don’t really have to imagine such a scenario
because the Lord is always calling on us
to return what he gave us,
to return what he’s loaned us
by using it well, sharing it with others,
even giving it away.

And this is especially true for us who,
in the intercessions every week, name ourselves as those
 “who have more than we need.”
There’s the hard part. 
Most of us do, indeed, have more than we need.
(And don’t be mistaken here:
the fact that we often want more and more
doesn’t necessarily mean that we need any more
than we already possess.)
When the Lord comes to claim some of what he’s given us
we’re often left with still an abundance of goods -
more than we need.
Sometimes it seems we’re never satisfied.
We store up, we collect and we hoard our goods and resources
even in the face of those who desperately have need
of even a share of what we have in abundance.
Each of us needs to seriously consider the gospel’s questions
in staking out our political stance.
Each of us ought to ask:
1) “What belongs to God?”   (Answer: everything!)
2) “Of all that belongs to God, what portion belongs to Caesar?”

My task, as a preacher, is to pose the questions;
our work, for each of us, is to discern our response.

Now, I don’t want to panic you,
but we’re only about two months away from Christmas.
Over the next 60 days we’ll spend a lot of our money
 (which, like everything else, is a gift on loan to us from God).
We (as individuals) will spend hundreds and thousands of dollars
buying “stuff” for people who already have too much stuff
- and yet want more stuff.
And in return, those same folks will give us more stuff
to add to the stuff we already have too much of.

It’s not always easy to figure out what belongs to God
in the political arena
but it shouldn’t be so hard to figure out what belongs to the Lord
on his birthday.
Still, I wager many of us will get that wrong again this year.
What belongs to God?  Everything belongs to God.
Everything I have, everything I am,
belongs to God and is on loan to me:
all gifts to be grateful for, to reverence,
to use well, to share - or to give away.

Among all the gifts we have received from God,
the greatest is the gift Jesus offers us:
his very life, laid down for us, once, on the Cross,
shared with us, now, in communion with his Body and Blood
at this altar.

Freely offered, his gift is ours to reverence,
a model for how we are called to use, to share,
even to give away all that we are and all that we have
in service of one another.


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