This week’s blog post begins with a somewhat depressing quote, but if you will bear with me for a little while, I think you will find that there is much hope and joy in the paragraphs to come. My name is Stephen, and I’m back this week to comment on the readings and, hopefully, encourage you to live a little more Christ-like in your busy, hectic, everyday college life.
Our first reading this morning comes from Isaiah; in it The Lord promises many things to his chosen people: “To subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors” (Is 45: 1). This is but one of many promises made by God in the Old Testament to his chosen people, and Jesus continues this throughout the New Testament, culminating in the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Who are these chosen people though? This is a question that is asked often of us: how can we know that we are chosen by God, and that our faith is through Him, in Him, and with Him? Two of the readings today assure us of this fact; we find it both later in the first reading, “I have named you, though you have not known Me,” (Is 45: 4) and in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, “Knowing…your election by God...” (1 Thes: 4). The reading from Isaiah should be, if anything, even more comforting for us, for The Lord states, “…though you have not known Me,” a statement that is affirmed in Jeremiah as well, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” (Jer 1: 5). We are promised to God and to His Mercy and Love before we can even begin to understand what this means for us; if that doesn’t give you hope, I’m not sure that anything can.
The Psalm for today is also rather full of hope; in it the psalmist states, “Sing to the Lord a new song! … Declare … His wonders among all peoples!” (Ps 96: 1, 3). We are often told to give praise and glory to God, and while this may seem easy when things are going well in our life, it can be difficult in times of desolation (i.e. a bad test, a bad week, too much homework, etc.). In these situations, I would point you towards the Saints, particularly St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Therese the Little Flower. St. Ignatius writes about three major causes for desolation, and two of the three reasons have to do with The Lord testing us and wishing to impart spiritual wisdom and graces to us through this time of desolation (the first is simply to direct us back to Him, if we have strayed from the course) (Spiritual Exercises, No. 314). St. Therese the Little Flower, like so many of the Saints, is a wonderful example of this; she suffered greatly from tuberculosis, and often had difficulty breathing due to blood filling her lungs. Despite this, she kept her faith strong and praised God in every aspect of her life; surely we can do the same when Starbuck’s messes up our order or we find ourselves with a poor test grade.
All this brings us finally to the Gospel for today, Matthew 22: 15-21. Many of you know this passage, but for those of you who do not, I will summarize it briefly here: The Pharisees, in a plot to catch Jesus, ask if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus, aware of their malicious intent, responds beautifully with the comment, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”
If you are employed, or have been employed, you have surely paid taxes. This is what belongs to “Caesar,” in our case, the government. But what belongs to God? What sort of “taxes” are we to pay Him? We are given a lovely answer in the Old Testament Book of Micah. Micah Chapter Six asks this exact question, and in verse eight we receive an answer: “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.”
I return to the opening quote then. As human beings, we are promised only two things in this life: death and, should you be employed, taxes. However, as Christians we are promised yet another wonderful gift: that The Lord will walk with us throughout our lives, no matter how difficult things may be at times. I extol you, then, to try to live a little more for Christ each day, through your actions, through your words, through your attitudes towards others and the situations you encounter. I leave you then with a quote from Blessed Pope Paul VI, who was beatified just this morning:
“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers …” Be a witness then, dear readers, and surely you render to God that which belongs to Him.