04 June 2024

It all belongs to God

9th Week OT (T)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

“Why are you testing me?” Great question. And we know the answer. They aren't so much testing Jesus as they are trying to trap him. Watch five minutes of a Congressional cmte hearing with hostile witnesses and you'll see the trap. Ask what appears to be a genuine question. But the question is loaded with assumptions, false dilemmas, and ill-defined terms. Any direct answer to the question-asked implicates the witness and the answer ends up on the evening news as as out-of-context, deceptively edited clip. Jesus is no dummy. He knows the trick. And he's a master at answering the question that wasn't asked. He tells the Herodians and Pharisees to give to Caesar what's Caesar's and to God what's God's. An inoffensive response that leaves his prosecutors in amazed silence. Maybe they hear the underlying assumption of Jesus' response. Maybe they don't. What belongs to Caesar? What belongs to God? Well, everything belongs to God, including Caesar! Caesar may not acknowledge God's ownership, but that failure doesn't change the fact that God the Father is the Creator of the Universe, the first cause of all that is and will be. Caesar lives and moves and has his being in God, so there is nothing Caesar has that doesn't first belong to God. Jesus' response to the trick question essentially says, “Give it all to God.” Sure, we have to pay taxes. But we're doing it with God's coin. We are paying God's taxes with God's coins. And Caesar gets to play the middle man while he lives. Think about all this is terms of grace: God created us to be perfect as He is perfect. We do this by choosing to participate in His divine life. But the ability to choose to participate is itself a gift from God. When we fail to participate fully, He gives us the gifts we need to get back on track. Even the ability to receive and use these gifts is a gift. It all belongs to God. Opting out of this economy of divine love is a possibility. Love after all entails freedom. But there are consequences to opting out like there are consequences to not paying taxes. Namely, we free ourselves from the every source of our creation and our re-creation in Christ. We set ourselves outside the divine economy, refusing to reap its benefits – now and forever. But even then, it all belongs to God. All we've done is fail to love God. He still loves us. And he will honor our choice not to love Him. We belong to Him. He doesn't belong to us.

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