Meanwhile, let me lighten this up a little bit by telling you a humorous story:
There were two men shipwrecked on this island. The minute they got on to the island one of them started screaming and yelling, "We're going to die! We're going to die!; There's no food!; No water!; We're going to die!"
The second man was propped up against a palm tree and acting so calmly it drove the first man crazy.; "Don't you understand?!? We're going to die!!"
The second man replied, "You don't understand, I make $100,000 a week."
The first man looked at him quite dumbfounded and asked, "What difference does that make?!?; We're on an island with no food and no water!; We're going to DIE!!!"
The second man answered, "You just don't get it.; I make $100,000 a week and each week I tithe ten percent of that $100,000. My pastor will find me!"
So you see there can be great benefits from tithing. Anyway, this Sunday Jesus does address the issue of money and how we use it. Jesus himself was a poor man. When they questioned him about taxes, he did not even have a single coin. He had to ask them to show him one. But even tho he was poor, he still had something to say about money. In fact, today we hear one of his most shrewd and memorable statements, "Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." What does this mean?
To some people it means dividing their lives into compartments. Here is my political life where I vote and pay taxes. Next my economic life where I earn and spend money. Then comes my social life and my family life. And if I have the time, my religious life - but I don't want to overdo it or people will think I am a fanatic. All these compartments cause us to fragment our lives. The fragmented person winds up feeling broken, divided, never knowing who he really is. That is not what Jesus intended.
When Jesus told us to give to Caesar what belongs to him and to God what belongs to him, he meant us to ask a simple question: just what is it I owe to the world and what is it I owe to God? When we frame the question that way, the answer is pretty obvious. I owe certain passing things to this world - and they are genuine duties, like paying taxes. But if I ask what I owe to God, there can be only one answer. I owe him everything. I cannot separate one corner and give it to God, then do with the rest whatever I please. Every second of my life, everything I possess, all the mental and physical energy in me has only one source. We hear it very plainly in the reading from Isaiah: "I am Lord and there is no other. There is no god besides me."
What we owe to Caesar - or to anyone else - can never be placed on equal footing with what we owe God. I have heard confession now for almost twenty eight years. People have confessed every sin against the ten commandments - perjury, stealing, drunkenness, adultery, even murder. But one sin I seldom, if ever, hear is the one against the first commandment. Yet it is probably our most common sin. "I am the Lord your God, you shall not have false gods before me." We worship a false god whenever we give a person or thing priority over God himself. I am not going to give you a check list of idols (alcohol, sex, money, etc.). What I want you to do is ask yourself, when you are alone and nothing immediate demands your attention, where do your thoughts fly? That person or thing or activity may well be your "god."
Jesus wants first place in your thoughts - and mine. Not that he has some kind of "need" for us. Just the opposite. He knows we will never be happy until we render to God what belongs to God, that is our entire being. One powerful step in doing that is giving of part of our financial resources in the collection. You notice that what is given is brought up to the altar right before we renew the sacrifice of Jesus, right before he invites us to join in that self-offering to the Father. He wants to take that free gift of self and return it, return us to the rightful owner. Render to God what belongs to God.
More on Parish Finances & Stewardship
Letter to Parishioners on Sacrificial Giving
C.S. Lewis, Time & the Jubilee Door
From Archives (for Twenty-Ninth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies (well worth listening)
Pictures from Peru (October 2008 Visit)
Holy Father's Message for Mission Sunday 1999 (October 24, 1999)
Novena for Youth (to discover God's plan)
Parish Picture Album
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru