Which One? – John Foley, SJ

Matthew 22:15-21, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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There seem to be two realms, God’s and Caesar’s. Jesus says so in Sunday’s Gospel. “Give to God the things that are God’s and to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

But can’t we live in both worlds? We want to, don’t we?

Jesus made his statement to settle an argument posed to him by the Pharisees. But if you push his statement too far, everything of Caesar must go away because it is not God, or on the other hand, God has to go away because science and secularism are so powerful.

Have you given your life to Caesar?

Which realm do you live in? Are you a “Sunday Catholic,” giving to God maybe an hour per week at Mass (if that!) and then getting on with life: television and cars and food and work, etc.? And maybe being afraid? Or wishing things had turned out better?

Have you given your life to Caesar?

Or do you try it the other way around? Perhaps you are so serious about Christianity and spirituality that you try to get away from every enjoyment of any worldly thing and to live uncorrupted. Throughout the history of Christianity there have been multitudinous examples. The desert hermits. The cloistered nuns and monks. The great mystics. “A penny for Caesar and all the rest for God”?

Can God and Caesar co-exist?

But what if you are created to be a container for God’s presence right in the midst of the secular world?

What if, in spite of the voices within you saying that you are not worth much, in spite of the setbacks of life, the losses, the flatness, the disappointments, the reversals, what if you were created with room inside you where God, out of love for you, can be quietly present?

I hear the objections to such an idea: “God would never be at home in me, not until I do a lot better with my life.” Or, “You want me to be some kind of nut, running around acting holy?” Or, “Sure, I want to let God in, but I like beer and TV too much.” Or, “What does all this have to do with real life?” Or simply, “I don’t want to.”

Ok. But what if God were a great friend, a loving, faithful amigo who really does want to be with you, within you, as much as is possible? In fact, how would it be if God were a companion who truly and actually accepts you and forgives you completely whenever you need it?

It’s another way to look at the connection between heaven and earth. God put you and me into the world to sanctify it, to befriend the things of Caesar. To work in the world of sin, with God, in spite of our own sins?

Jesus says, give to God “what(ever) belongs to God.” “Belongs,” not in a possessive way, but in the way felt by those who love and are loved.

If this is how it is, why wouldn’t we, in return, want to give ourselves to God? And then also to bring our God-touched selves into Caesar’s palaces and onto the dirty roads outside them, to show at least some folks what Christ is all about?

Which realm should we live in?

Both.

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