Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ex 22:20-26
1 Thes 1:5c-10
Mt 22:34-40
St. Augustine once said love God and do what you want. Before we decide we now have a license to do anything, we should examine just what is meant by that statement. How do you act toward someone you love? Let’s look at the relationships in our own lives. If you love your spouse, really love your spouse, how do you act toward them? If you are acting in love, your ultimate goal is to make your spouse happy. You do things to make them happy, sometimes even if you don’t want to. You do things to build them up, you do things to build up the relationship, to make it flourish. You do not do things to hurt your spouse, you do not do things to damage the relationship. When you act in love you try to make the relationship flourish. It is a relationship built not on rules, but on love. Love covers all the rules. Your relationship with you children will involve rules, rules you set. Those rules are, or should be based in love. We set rules, make limits for our children to help them, to help them grow into whole and happy people. Again, this is a relationship built not on rules, but on love. So it is in our relationship with God. God shares love with us, a love we then return to God, and a love we are called on to share with others, spouses, children, family, the world. We are to share what has been given us with everyone. In the first reading we heard how we are to act toward the widow, the orphan, the alien, the stranger. We are to share with them the love that God shares with us. We are called to act in love. When we can do that, when we are acting in love, when we are be-ing in love, then we may begin to understand what St. Augustine meant when he said love God, and do what you want.
Deacon John
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 26, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I finally am back, feeling well enough to begin posting again on a regular basis. So far the cancer seems to be in remission, and over all I am doing fairly well. Thanks for your prayers.

Is 45:1, 4-6
1 Thes 1:1-5b
Mt 22:15-21

In Star Trek lore cadets in Star Fleet Academy were tested with a situation known as the Kobayshi Maru situation. The catch to this test was that there was no way to succeed. The cadet, assuming the role of commander of a star ship, was placed in a no win situation. No choice the cadet made would lead to a good outcome. Only one cadet, a certain James Kirk, defeated the test by reprogramming the scenario, giving him choices that allowed him to win in a no win situation. In today’s Gospel the Pharisees and Herodians seek to put Jesus in just such a no win situation. They approach Jesus with a question, a question they assume has no good answer. They ask Jesus if it is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not. They believe they have Jesus trapped, because they see only two possible answers, neither of them good, at least not for the person giving the answer. If Jesus says it is lawful to pay the tax, they can condemn him as a tool of the Roman oppressors. If Jesus says that one should not pay the tax, he can be turned over to the authorities and most likely be put to death as an insurrectionist. The question, like the Kobayshi Maru scenario, seemingly had no right answer. Jesus, however, turned the situation upside down, and gave an answer the questioners never expected. Show me the coin for paying the tax. Whose image is on the coin? Caesar’s. Repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. Let Caesar have the coin with his image on it, in the end what did it matter? Jesus called on those listening, and on us, to give to God that which has God’s image on it, us. In our lives we may face what appear to be no win situations. No situation is hopeless, however, when we simply give to God that which is God’s that which is in God’s image, ourselves. In my own experience I have been in that situation. Faced with a life threatening, incurable disease, no answer seems good, no answer seems right. In this situation giving up would have seemed to be the only choice. Yet, as I discovered, it was not. I had a better choice, I could, as James Kirk did, as Jesus did, change the situation so I could win. Giving myself to God, giving to God what ultimately belongs to God, was the answer. No matter the eventual outcome, by giving to God what is in God’s image, by giving to God that which is God’s, by giving myself, I win. All of us, in the thousand situations we face, the situations that seem hopeless, that seem to be no win, can win, when we simply give God what is God’s, when we give God ourselves.

Deacon John
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 19, 2008