“I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” – St Ignatius of Antioch
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” – Matthew 22:21b
Pay to the world what is the world’s, and to God what is God’s. It was a big deal for Matthew to write this, as he himself was a tax collector. Surely this moment with Christ touched him deeply, and perhaps even changed him, as it can also touch and change us today.
What is God’s?
Perhaps it’s easier to answer that question with the context of next Sunday’s Gospel, the continuation of this week’s, in which – 16 verses of Matthew after this – Jesus gives “the greatest Law,” and teaches, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
What is God’s? Your heart, your soul, your mind. Your neighbor. And love. God is love, and Love is of God.
Heart, soul, mind, neighbor, love.
If I am to LOVE God with ALL my heart, ALL my soul, ALL my mind, and love my neighbor as myself, when do I do this? When do I fail?
As a husband, if I put some desire of my own over my wife’s needs, am I truly loving my neighbor as myself?
As a physical neighbor of another homeowner, if I quickly and conveniently blow just a few of the grass clippings or the leaves over towards his yard (He’s not looking out his window, is he?) to save myself some time, am I truly loving my neighbor as myself?
If I dangerously disregard traffic laws and speed and weave through traffic to try to get to work faster, neglecting the fact that everyone around me is also trying to get somewhere safely, and I truly loving my neighbor as myself?
If I find it a little too easy to ignore or brush off those in Ferguson reminding me that there are still injustices in my own back yard, regardless of the events that precipitated that plea.
If I forget about those in prison, or in the hospital; if I fear Ebola more than I pray for those who have contracted it and those who are caring for them; if I find it too easy to drive or walk past someone asking for some spare change from my pocket because I’ve been asked and I’ve given or ignored a thousand times before, am I loving my neighbor as myself? If they go to bed tonight with pangs of hunger while I lay, comfortably and well-fed, am I?
God asks for our WHOLE hearts, our WHOLE souls, and our WHOLE minds.
I’m a husband and a father. If I prioritize my kids ABOVE my relationship with God, am I really doing them a service? If getting them to the next soccer game is more important than prioritizing leading them to Mass, to the Eucharist, to the “source and summit” of our lives as Christians and to the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world, am I doing them any favors? Am I showing them that God truly has my whole heart, soul, and mind, and setting the example for them to give Him theirs as well?
Or am I instead teaching my children to give the world what is God’s?
No, as a husband and father, MORE is asked of me. It’s more important than ever before in my life: when i was single, when I wasn’t entrusted yet with children… now it is MORE important to put my relationship with God FIRST, to give him His due FIRST, out of my time, my talents, my abilities, my physical abundance. God gave it to me, and in returning it to Him, I fulfill his command and I deepen my relationship with Him in turn.
Somehow – and I’m always surprised by this – God surprises me by giving back to me in new ways whenever I give to Him. Sometimes it’s a new grace, or a new gift. Sometimes it’s a new suffering to offer up to Him for others around me.
In giving to God what is God’s, I acknowledge the teaching of Isaiah in today’s first reading, “I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:4b-5)
In “giving the Lord glory and honor”, as in the Psalm, I do find myself “unceasingly calling to mind [my] work of faith and labor of love
and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians.
One of my favorite verses of the Old Testament reinforces this – the prophet Micah wrote, “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
When I do these things; when I act this way in these moments of daily life, slowly, over time, I find myself becoming more fully configured to Christ, serving in love. I find peace in giving to God all that is His, all that He has given to me. Sufferings, pains, struggles; gifts, graces, talents. Giving all. May God give us the grace to continue living out this challenge in our lives and in our world.
For more than ten years – since I re-met my wife, started dating her, realized my vocation to marriage with her, and started a family with her – since I stopped considering what I had thought might have been a call to the Catholic priesthood, I’ve contemplated and discerned a possible call to the diaconate.
It’s important to note that that’s not a “replacement” calling – it’s an entirely different calling. The deacon is not ordained for the same sacramental realities that the priest is; and, in fact, a permanent deacon who is married has other sacramental realities that are priorities in his life as well, by virtue of the Sacrament of Marriage. The diaconate has been ill-served in recent years by our Catholic faithful perceiving it as an “other” calling than the priesthood, though – it is in line with the priesthood, but a lower order; it is charged with helping to preach the Word (in word and action), offering the prayers of the Church, serving (but not as a priest) at the altar, and leading in taking that service and call of the Word into the world.
From time to time, the whisper that I think might be a calling gets louder, or sometimes quieter. But it’s always, undeniably, there. There’s a certain fear that comes along with it – not a fear of what accepting that call might bring, but rather a fear of whether what I’m feeling and hearing is truly a call at all. The simple fear of discerning “incorrectly” is a very, very strong fear.
That said, a few weeks ago, a series of signs happened in my life (again.) First, this – a comment thread when a priest of our diocese posted a link to a study our diocese recently co-released with Benedictine University on why some Catholics stop practicing their faith, and why others remain:
That’s the first time the cat’s truly been “out of the bag”, as they say, other than with my wife.
Then, that weekend, the homily at Mass was very much about not withholding your knowledge, gifts and talents when you’re called to share them.
Then, that same weekend, this appeared in our parish bulletin:
Then, I had some intense prayer around the time of my own patronal feast, the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.
After discussing with my wife, we decided to attend. As it ended up, another good friend and his wife from our parish are also going. It should be a nice trip to our Cathedral (about 1 1/2 hours north) to find out more together.
I don’t know where this first step on this journey might lead. I don’t know if I’ll apply, if I’ll be accepted, if I’ll go all the way. But I know I’m saying my first “Yes” at this moment.
This Sunday’s Gospel is the Parable of the Wedding Feast. In the parable, the king continued to send messengers to invite his countrymen to the wedding feast for his son. Many repeatedly ignored the invitation. I hope that, if I’m truly being called, that I am aided by grace in knowing what to do and when. Also in the parable, when one man showed up for the feast, he was clothed inappropriately and thrown out. I pray that if I’m truly chosen, I’m able to be, and remain, clothed in grace and a life worthy of this calling.
Joseph, the dad hard at work in his shop, with his son (Jesus) playing at his feet, bears the sash over the left shoulder of his tunic – the sash of a deacon.
When we talked about the meeting with our boys at dinner last week, it was a great conversation.
The next morning, while driving somewhere in the car, our second, Matthew, said, “Dad, I think you’d be a good deacon, because you love God, you know so much about Him, and you love to pray Morning Prayer every day.”
That sums it up, I think – if this calling is real and true, I feel deeply that it’s in part because God has given me so much love, passion, and knowledge to help serve effectively: the Word, at the altar, and in the world. Such is what I know to be the service of a deacon.
Mary, ask Jesus your Son for grace and guidance for me, please.
Friends, please pray for Suzanne, the boys, and me.
If I tell you I’m going to pray for you or your intention, you should know that more than likely, in my mind’s eye, I see myself praying the Rosary on your behalf, and ultimately, within a day or two, you will be in my intentions as I am praying a daily Rosary. Today – October 7 – is a special day in our Church calendar – the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (also known as Our Lady of Victory), marking the victory at Lepanto, securing Europe against Turkish invaders (read about it here.)
The Rosary is my personal weapon of choice
Many non-Catholics (and many Catholics) misunderstand it, unfortunately – they see the Rosary as a prayer to Mary and a stumbling block to prayer to Christ Himself and a relationship with Him. However, to me (and to Catholics everywhere), the Rosary is Jesus’s mother’s preferred prayer tool for us to use to recall the major events of Christ’s love and ministry, and pray through her, begging for her intercession before Christ her Son on our behalf.
Lord, you will open my lips;
and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
…it begins each day’s Liturgy of the Hours, and it begins the new journey of this blog on the intersection of faith, family, and life.
I am a Catholic husband and father. Work-from-home corporate manager by day; husband and daddy (to 4 boys), church organist and music director, cub scout leader, and scouting volunteer by night. I’ve run “blogs” since before they were called blogs, back to bulletin board systems in the mid-90’s and websites in the late ’90’s. This, in fact, has been an on-again, off-again project for several years, but now it’s time to make it a serious pursuit. More in the coming days.