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Reflection for 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

It’s funny how “owing” is a big part of our lives. And consequently, we probably think about our debts often: I owe so and so a birthday card, I owe the credit card company, I owe that person a phone call, I owe my employee a raise, I owe my parents a visit. You get the picture. But some of what we owe isn’t quite as explicit: I owe my employer a full day’s work, I owe my kids my full attention, I owe my spouse my understanding and compassion, I owe my friend my loyalty. These, too, are just as, if not more, important. Yet, with all our preoccupations with whom we owe ( and more importantly, who owes us) most of us neglect to truly wrestle with the most important question of all: What do I owe God?

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

At some level, I think most of us acknowledge that, at the very least, we owe God something. What that is comes in many shapes and sizes. Some of us may feel that all we owe God is our obedience to his laws. Nothing more and nothing less. Some of us may feel that we owe him a certain amount of our time and effort each day or each week – (Mass, prayers, acts of kindness). Some of us may be convinced that what we owe God a percentage of our income (donations to Church, charities, etc.) Still others among us may feel that we owe God certain things we have promised him in return for blessings, favors, or good fortune. (God, if you help me get the job I really want, I’ll . . .). My guess is that many of us have probably incorporated each of those motivations at different time and in various circumstances.

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

It’s sort of a shame how we tend to minimize what we truly owe God. Think about it for a minute. God owes us nothing and gives us everything. We, in turn, owe God everything, and we give him . . . . Each of us has to complete that sentence ourselves, And even though each of us is unique – with different wants, needs, capabilities and backgrounds –that which we owe God is the same for each of us, for God asks for nothing short of our whole selves. And that can be more than a little intimidating, overwhelming and frightening. Give God my whole self? How exactly do I do that? The how may become a little clearer if we take a closer look at that famous verse once more:

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

What belongs to God? If we only see our lives as somehow an attempt to “repay” God for what he has done for us, we will always come up short. No matter how much we do or don’t do, we can never pay God back fully. If we are able to see ourselves “belonging” to God, then our lives become something altogether different - giving back to God what is already his. Now that we can do. If you think about it, sin is exactly the opposite, living as if our lives belonged to no one but ourselves. We are in charge. We call the shots. We make the rules. We determine the path. We know better.

Believing that we belong to God (and, as Christians claimed by Christ), can have a transforming effect on our lives. Instead of seeing our relationship with God as purely one person in debt to another, we will begin to realize that one of the deepest realities of our lives is one true communion, a deep and mutual love, caring and responsibility to and for one another, an in dwelling between creature and Creator.

And that is truly Good News, for the truth is, we are in the best of hands, sustained and comforted by the One who is love, the One who calls us his own. And we can almost certainly be assured that God never intends to tell us “You owe me.” Rather, it’s much more likely that he’s trying to encourage us and assure us each and every day, “Just love me, as I love you.”

If you have a brief faith reflection on today’s reading that you would like to share, please send it to me at deaconruss@holyspiritunoh.org.