Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
We cannot live life constantly on the edge. We need balance. We need a center, a home base, solid ground, stability.
Today’s readings bring us back to our center, our hope, our goal, our love: “I am the Lord, there is no other.” (Is 45:6) These readings remind us that if there was a shift in our way of seeing our solar system, there cannot be a shift in the way we see the Savior!
Centering on Ourselves: I don’t care to admit it, but I like to be the center of attention. I like it when others think of me. I like it when I am the attention grabber; when the spot light is on me. I like to be the focus of attention, the popular one. I like it when people come up to me and say, “Father, you gave a great homily!” or “Father, you’re the best!” I also hate it when people come up to me and say, “Father, can I speak to you for a moment.” I know what that means. It means they didn’t like what I had to say. I think it is all very natural. It is all a result of original sin. We all like to be considered, appreciated, loved and adored, even if it means creating a lot of dead bodies! That’s why what Isaiah says is what we all need to hear: There is a God, and it is not you! The Lord knows me by name. He knows me well. He knows my weakness, my failings, my stumbles and my falls. I should know this by now! I should be well aware of my errors by now. To wish to be the center of the Universe means to place the weight of the Universe upon my shoulders. And guess what? It will crush me! I cannot allow myself to fall into this temptation. I know what will happen; I will surely die!
Centering on Others: I don’t care to admit this but not only do I love myself, I also tend to love others. I love to place them on a pedestal. I love to think about them all the time. I love to spend time with them. Last night I had dinner with a wonderful family. The teenage daughter was begging her mother to allow her to see a rock concert. She had to see this singer! I can’t even remember what his name is. But I was starting to get annoyed by how she was idolizing him! How many teenage girls have posters of Justin Beiber or so-and-so on their locker door, or plastered on their bedroom walls? When I was a teenager I was in love with Madonna – not the real one, but the fake one! And then one day it all came tumbling down. She said something so stupid, so filthy, so perverted and so disgusting on MTV that I vowed to myself I would never buy or listen to a song sung by her. I kept my promise. I learned an awesome lesson. I cannot have any false idols! There is only one God, and not a single person can fill that role! I also remember a trick a friend I looked up to played on me. One day he challenged me to a competition. He had a quarter and he told me, “Heads, I slap you. Tales, you slap me!” I was stupid enough to go along with it. Well, after 5 slaps in my face (all in a row) I grabbed the quarter out of his hand and saw that both sides were “heads”! Getting slapped in the face is exactly what happens to us when we give more than man deserves and less to what God deserves! If we replace people with God, we will always end up getting disappointed.
Centering on God: This evening I gave a talk to a group of teenagers at All Saints Church. Like always, very few kids were smiling. Some were playing with their hair; others had their arms crossed. I asked them a very simple question. I asked them if they knew who God is. I said, “God is...?” I got the very typical answers: All-mighty, Creator, All-powerful, etc. But no one said, “God is love”. I told them, “No wonder why you aren’t smiling. You don’t know that God is love!” The Lord invites us today to center our lives, our desires and passions, our faith, hope and love, our very being on Him! Do I think like Jesus did? Do I speak like He did? Do I work and move like He did? If not, then give to God what belongs to God!