Reading I: Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6
Psalm: 96: 1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
Reading II: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21
If everything belongs to God, how do you and I feel about that? How does that put undertones into our living and our beliefs and everything about us? Why is it that sometimes we raise questions to God? Why? The answer comes back, very simply,
“Because I am God and everything belongs to me.”
I want to use some examples that are in focus for all of us.
The first is that at the present time in Quincy we are being asked if we should build new schools in our community. Some people may say “yes,” others may say “no.” But if you look at it from the eyes of Jesus he is asking, “Do you all live here? And if you do, why don’t you want the best for everybody?”
If some of you are thinking, “Why can’t this just be for me? The rest of you can’t have it. It’s all for me.” And Jesus is saying, “No. No. I permeate the entire city.”
It’s important that all of our children are raised with the very best education. That’s why we strive for all of our schools, not just Blessed Sacrament, but for every school in town and every school in the diocese — we strive to provide the very best environment we can for our students.
We also have students from every parish that go to the public schools, and the children of many of our friends and neighbors. God is not here to tell you, “Do this, or, do that.” He’s just saying, “It all belongs to me. So just know wherever you go, you should find me.” So this is something for us to think about.
Everyone here needs to make his or her own decision. But we have to know, “Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what is God’s.” We pay a tax to support our schools and we pay tuition to support our Catholic schools, but the bottom line is we want all people, of all faiths, to grow up and be able to know God and to create a community that is filled with love — whatever it takes.
This past month the Holy Father has met with a group of people, couples and bishops from around the world and they are opening up discussion about the family — how we should view and consider families, and how the family should grow. In the United States we are always pushing the hot button. You can go home right now and turn on CNN and find the breaking news and the hot button to push. Now the news may change by four o’clock but there is always going to be a button to push.
The Holy Father is asking, “How can we as God’s children — embrace God’s children?”
It’s a neat question. And the Holy Father says, “Share your feelings and talk about it.” He talks about how many couples have separated and gone through a divorce. Many have remarried, but they don’t feel like they belong to the church any longer. Then they quit going to church and the children don’t go to church. And it doesn’t stop. He’s raising the question, “God still lives in everyone. So how can we always make sure that everyone feels welcome? What will it take for people to be able to say, ‘I understand.’ ”
I remember as a very small child being at an event, and I was within earshot of this lady and I heard her say, “This is going to be our saddest Thanksgiving.” They were Catholic and I knew them from the parish. The woman said, “This year our daughter got a divorce and she and her husband won’t be able to come to our house for Thanksgiving.”
I could not understand this and I asked my parents, “Why couldn’t they come for Thanksgiving?” My Mom said, “Well, in our family they can. But in some families they believe a serious sin has been committed, so divorced persons cannot sit at the table at Thanksgiving.”
That happened 50 some years ago, but it shows how we struggle to find God in every situation. That couple needed to be there at the Thanksgiving table probably more than ever in their lifetime, and be there with their families. Many of you may have experienced something like this, and I doubt that there is a family sitting here that has not experienced a divorce and a remarriage in their own family.
How do we handle this? Respect. How do we show we are still family? We ask Jesus, “Where do they all fit in?” And Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to me what is mine — and they are all my children. Don’t you ever try and separate someone from me.”
Then we ask ourselves, “How do I feel about all of this and, do I support someone going through this situation?”
Another issue going on not only in the Catholic Church, but also in all churches, is the issue of same-sex unions. In the past, traditionally marriage has been between a man and a woman. So how do we reconcile this? How do we know? If half of this church was gay, and this other half was straight, and Jesus is standing here in front of you and we ask him — “Well, who are you going to like, and who are you going to love?”
Jesus cuts through that so fast and says, “Didn’t I give all of you life?”
“Have you attempted to understand?”
“Well, maybe — maybe not.”
“Then, maybe that is what you need to do — try and understand.”
When I was first ordained we started a Mass like we have today with the guitars and singers. When it first started people came out of the woodwork to come for those masses. There was a young man with the musicians and he was a senior at Griffin High School in Springfield. He was the lead singer for the group and he came to me one day and said, “Father, may I talk to you. I really need some help. I’m gay. Do you know what that means?”
I said, “Yes, I do.”
“My dilemma is I don’t know how to share this with my Mom and Dad.”
We talked for a while and then I said, “Would it help at all if I went with you when you talk to your Mom and Dad and share this with them?”
And he said, “Oh, that would be just fantastic.”
His dad was a well-known psychiatrist in town. This was a beautiful family and the couple had eight children. So we went to the house one afternoon and the dad was delayed, but the mom was there and we chatted for a while and finally I said, “We need to talk about something.” So I asked the young man to share. And he told his mother he was gay. The mom just sat there.
“I know this isn’t easy” I said, “but what your son wants to know is, do you still love him?”
And she looked at him and said, “Yes.”
That was a moment.
That didn’t happen last week — it was 50 years. So what we are discussing is not something new. It isn’t breaking news. The mother said, “Yes, I love you,” and that is who we are as the people of God. We all belong to God, and we don’t always understand.
I don’t understand why some people fill their bodies with drugs. I don’t understand how someone can go to another country and load up a plane with young people and traffic them for sex. I don’t grasp it. But I do know I need to pray for them and I need to be part of their lives. And I want them to be a part of my life.
“We are not asking for yes or no,” the Holy Father is saying, “but we need to discuss this because it is an issue not only for the United States but also for the entire world.
We need to find a way so that Jesus will be alive in everyone’s hearts, and we need to find a way to always seek the best for others as well as ourselves. And however life unfolds, God will be there for each one of us — and we need to be there for each other.”
Sometimes we pass judgment because we have not walked in the shoes of someone else. If you’ve never had to open up to your Mom and Dad about your sexual preference, you don’t have a clue what that young man went through. If you have never had to participate in the whole experience of going through a divorce, you have no idea of the pain and how difficult that can be.
You can’t say, “Well, we are happily married, why can’t everyone else be happily married.” Jesus says, “You don’t get it, do you. Because when you got married, you got married to lead each other to Christ. And when you lead each other to Christ you open your hearts to embrace the rest of the world. That’s who we are.”
Jesus says, “Think about your decisions. And know when it is all said and done to keep playing these words over and over in your hearts— ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar, but give to God what is God’s.’ And I am your God. I have given you everything and I expect you to give me everything, and it all has to be absorbed in that gift of love.”
We do not know the joys and sorrows of everyone in this room. But God knows. He knows what is going on and what everybody is thinking right now. And God is simply saying, “Trust me. I love you. And somehow we will find, through love, the way to build the Kingdom and to be there for each other. It will always be an open-ended dialogue. But in order to dialogue — we need to be people of love and faith.”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.