Homily - Homily 29th Sunday in Ordinary time Year A - Fr H Kingsley Etoh

22 October 2017 

Homily 29th Sunday in Ordinary time Year A - Fr H Kingsley Etoh 

After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his condemnation of the hypocritical lifestyle of the Pharisees, we see the Pharisees attacking Jesus with everything they have got. Their goal is to discredit him in the presence of the crowds or cause him to make a mistake that will get him into trouble with the Romans.

In chapter 22, they asked him three questions, which were meant to trip him. One of those questions is what today’s gospel is all about: Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?

From the early times, Christians have sometimes turned to this portion of the gospel to address issues concerning the church and state. While this text can be helpful in that regard, I think it deals with a problem that presses hard on many of us much of the time: divided loyalties.

This is a problem that can exist between people. It is also a problem that can exist within a person. Although it is a problem as old as man, it has grown worse as life has become more complicated.

What Jesus tells his interrogators in response to their one malicious question offers us a basis for resolving our many questions about divided loyalties which we raise in a spirit of honest discipleship.

We are to give to God what belongs to him, what bears his image and his name. We are to give ourselves to God. Not once only, but repeatedly. Giving ourselves to God is to be characteristic of our lives, something that defines and shapes who we are.

On that basis, and only on that basis, are we equipped to address competently other claims made upon us. This involves rejecting those that lack legitimacy. It also involves recognizing claims that are legitimate, and acknowledging the proper place for each in the ever-shifting network of relationships which is our life.

We are not called upon simply to give the emperor what belongs to the emperor. We are called upon as well to give to relatives, friends, strangers, co-workers, employees, and all other people whatever it is of us they can rightly claim. We are charged with the challenging task of transforming our diverse loyalties into a unified life governed and directed by our supreme and absolute loyalty, which is to God and God alone.

Nobody says this is easy. All of us make mistakes along the way. But we must recognize the task for what it is. And the wonder of it is that in putting God first the other appropriate demands made of us can fall into their proper places.

Loving God first and foremost gives us the wisdom and the orientation to love others in their uniqueness in ways that are right for them and for us. Once we give ourselves absolutely to God, then remarkably we are free to give to others in ways that are gracious and life-giving, rather than distorted and destructive.

Moving from divided loyalties to united loyalties has a lot to do with giving: giving ourselves totally to God, giving ourselves in appropriate ways to others. We may feel drained simply by considering all this generosity, as though we’re asked to put on a picnic for the immediate world. The logistics can overwhelm us.

But when we get the tune right, by giving ourselves to God and to others in the best ways possible, then a transformation occurs. We no longer picture ourselves as givers. We are receivers, recipients of divine generosity. This is the truth of our lives and we recognize it.

So, we can give our entire selves to God. We can give to others what belongs to them. Thus, we come to recognize true loyalties for what they are: a single, unbroken love, bringing power and light to the world. We are not the source of that current, but it is ours to enjoy and transmit.

After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his condemnation of the hypocritical lifestyle of the Pharisees, we see the Pharisees attacking Jesus with everything they have got. Their goal is to discredit him in the presence of the crowds or cause him to make a mistake that will get him into trouble with the Romans.

In chapter 22, they asked him three questions, which were meant to trip him. One of those questions is what today’s gospel is all about: Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?

From the early times, Christians have sometimes turned to this portion of the gospel to address issues concerning the church and state. While this text can be helpful in that regard, I think it deals with a problem that presses hard on many of us much of the time: divided loyalties.

This is a problem that can exist between people. It is also a problem that can exist within a person. Although it is a problem as old as man, it has grown worse as life has become more complicated.

What Jesus tells his interrogators in response to their one malicious question offers us a basis for resolving our many questions about divided loyalties which we raise in a spirit of honest discipleship.

We are to give to God what belongs to him, what bears his image and his name. We are to give ourselves to God. Not once only, but repeatedly. Giving ourselves to God is to be characteristic of our lives, something that defines and shapes who we are.

On that basis, and only on that basis, are we equipped to address competently other claims made upon us. This involves rejecting those that lack legitimacy. It also involves recognizing claims that are legitimate, and acknowledging the proper place for each in the ever-shifting network of relationships which is our life.

We are not called upon simply to give the emperor what belongs to the emperor. We are called upon as well to give to relatives, friends, strangers, co-workers, employees, and all other people whatever it is of us they can rightly claim. We are charged with the challenging task of transforming our diverse loyalties into a unified life governed and directed by our supreme and absolute loyalty, which is to God and God alone.

Nobody says this is easy. All of us make mistakes along the way. But we must recognize the task for what it is. And the wonder of it is that in putting God first the other appropriate demands made of us can fall into their proper places.

Loving God first and foremost gives us the wisdom and the orientation to love others in their uniqueness in ways that are right for them and for us. Once we give ourselves absolutely to God, then remarkably we are free to give to others in ways that are gracious and life-giving, rather than distorted and destructive.

Moving from divided loyalties to united loyalties has a lot to do with giving: giving ourselves totally to God, giving ourselves in appropriate ways to others. We may feel drained simply by considering all this generosity, as though we’re asked to put on a picnic for the immediate world. The logistics can overwhelm us.

But when we get the tune right, by giving ourselves to God and to others in the best ways possible, then a transformation occurs. We no longer picture ourselves as givers. We are receivers, recipients of divine generosity. This is the truth of our lives and we recognize it.

So, we can give our entire selves to God. We can give to others what belongs to them. Thus, we come to recognize true loyalties for what they are: a single, unbroken love, bringing power and light to the world. We are not the source of that current, but it is ours to enjoy and transmit.

 

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