Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Belongs to God

This weekend the letter of the Bishop to the people was read at all the Masses. It was a letter regarding the formation of conscience especially in light of our duty to vote. In the letter, the difference between matters of prudential judgement and matters which are intrinsically evil was clarified. Examples prudential judgement are the different ways to address immigration reform or the economy or the war on terror. Reasonable people can differ in their opinions and discuss how best to proceed in these areas. On the other hand, some actions are intrinsically evil, such as abortion of euthanasia. The only reasonable and sane (and holy) approach to these evils is to confront and to oppose them.

Furthermore, as important as areas of prudential judgement are, they simply do not carry the same weight as areas of intrinsic evil. If a candidate is a supporter of something intrinsically evil, one cannot simply say that his or her opinion in that area is just one thing that can be balanced with their view on something else, like the economy.

Anyway, the letter was very good. If you would like to read it, here is a link to the full text in English.

In the evening, we celebrated what can be called an "Explanation Mass." That is, a Mass with a accompanied by teachings regarding general liturgical principles and some explanation of what is going on. It is only allowed to interrupt the flow of the Mass at certain points of the liturgy. So instead of a plethora of comments after each part, the teaching is delivered in the format of a few lectures. Of course, with a subject so profound as the liturgy, not everything can be explained completely. But the experience was well received, in spite of causing the Mass to last for two hours.

Between the Letter of the Bishop, which was certainly pertinent to the Gospel reading, and the liturgical education going on, there was not a lot of time to delve into the issues raised by the Gospel.

The cooperation of the Pharisees and the Herodians brings to mind the saying "politics make strange bedfellows." Generally, these two groups were not getting along. Yet they both had their reasons for wanting Jesus to be removed from the scene. They begin their questioning of Jesus with flattery, which was all true, but their hearts were not open to the Truth. Jesus knew their malice and uttered one of the memorable sayings of Scripture Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God (Matthew 22:21). Jesus was not interested in destabilizing the Roman Empire. After all, Jesus knew that all authority comes from above. Those in authority are permitted to do so by God. With the exercise of authority comes responsibility to serve the common good of the people governed.

At the same time, Jesus is not concerned with maintaining the status quo of the government. He was not interested in politics, but rather with salvation. Jesus was and is interested that we get our lives in order with God. We have a responsibility to the common good in the public arena. But that flows from the fulfillment of our responsibility to God. Someday, the earthly part of our existence will cease, and we will be judged for how we conducted ourselves. But our relationship with God will never cease.

In some sense, repaying Caesar what belongs to Caesar will continue onward, only because the love of neighbor we are called to exercise will continue into eternity for those who love God. But giving God what is justly His to receive will never stop, because He is eternal. All things are of God's making. Everything that is, exists because God is making it exist. There is no part of anything in which the Lord is not God.

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