Sunday, October 19, 2014

Repayment Strategies (2014-10-19)

[__01__]    The answer is Yes. Repay.

[__02__]      With “repayment”, there is often a celebration, joy, rejoicing.

The celebration may not necessarily be manifested publicly as a toast with champagne glasses. Yet, there is often some relief, gladness in repayment and the satisfaction of one’s debts or obligations, isn’t there?

For example, if a person or famly were able to pay off his or her mortgage …or their mortgage, there would be relief.

Some people are known even to put the mortgage document into the fireplace for burning.

In this way, their debts also go .. earth to earth… ashes to ashes … dust to dust. It disappears.

[__03__]       Another example of repayment would be a student’s completion  of a final exam, term paper, or thesis.  As students, we are called to render and surrender unto the teacher what we have learned. And, once we handed in our work or homework, we are relieved. We may also celebrate.

A student repays “academically” to the professor teacher.

A family or person repays monetarily to Chase, to Bank of America, to Wells Fargo.

[__04__]     Repayment is cause for celebration, for joy.

In the Gospel, this Sunday, a question is about money is brought to our Lord and Savior. At least, this may appear to be a question of liabilities (i.e., to the government…what we must pay) and a question of assets (i.e., to ourselves, what want to keep).

Is this just accounting? Economics?

The question is brought by the Pharisees. The Pharisees ask Jesus, “Should we pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:___)

With this question, they were testing our Savior, to examine/investigate his loyalty to the Roman Empire.  They are asking …

  • Should we pay this invoice?
  • Should we pay this bill?
  • Should we be in this tax bracket?

In other words, they ask what every taxpayer may wonder –

  • How much do we pay?
  • Is it really necessary?
  • What has the government done of us lately?  (“What  you have done for me lately?”)

It’s interesting that Jesus does not answer in terms of what the Pharisees or you and I are supposed to …

  • GIVE ..or … PAY
Rather, he responds saying what we should

  • “re-pay”
  • Or in other translations of the Bible what we should “render unto Caesar”

Well, if we were to “repay”…. Or “render” unto Caesar, this would be a bit different.

That is, Jesus is suggesting we have a responsibility to repay…to support the government…to support the communal needs for all of us…

[[  Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country:

Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.(Romans 13:7)

[Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . . They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. . . . So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.( Ad Diognetum 5,5 and 10; 6,10:PG 2,1173 and 1176.)

The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way."( 47 1 Tim 2:2)]] à Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2240

[__05__]   On the other hand, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we agree with every action taken by the government or by every office holder in …(locations?  Governments??)  

In fact, we are also called to pray for our leaders that they would use the money and authority entrusted to them for good, for the protection of the defenseless.

By our taxes,we pay for many things in Caesar’s image …or made by Caesar’s strategies.

But by our meditations and petitions – whether at church or home – we pray for what is in God’s image that his kingdom will come, his will be done.

[__06__]      Our repayment to Caesar or the IRS (or USA) is also a celebration, an act of hope and trust – not necessarily in “Caesar” … but an act of hope in God and that the prayers of many for our elected leaders will help all things to work for good. (cf. Romans 8:28)

[__08__]       Repayment is a celebration.  Jesus speaks not only of what we render or hand over to Caesar – but also what we hand over and render to God.

Thomas Merton writes that “infinite sharing is the law of God’s inner life. He also made the sharing [gift - surrender] of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we we best love ourselves.”[1]  

Merton and other writers characterize this, spiritually, as “being disinterested“  …
“being indifferent”

This is a spiritual approach towards indifference…and spiritual approach to toward love and charity that is distinct from ordinary indifference.

That is, if I were to experience ordinary indifference in my life, I would (might) walk by you without saying hello … you might bump into someone without acknowledging his or her presence.

But spiritual indifference does not mean I do not care about someone else’s welfare.

Rather, spiritual indifference means that I render – or surrender – my love, my service as a repayment, a repayment of mercy, of charity, of fidelity

[__09__]       I render it is a repayment beside someone in a hospital, or by permitting someone to share his or her sorrow with me.

On the other hand, we also repay by allowing someone to share his or her joy – and good fortune with me. Isn’t this sometimes a sacrifice…to do as St. Paul says ..not only to weep with those who weep but to rejoice with those who rejoice. (cf. Romans 12:15).

Sometimes, we may not feel like rejoicing. To do so…. To love in this way…is a repayment.

Yes,… go ahead a repay. And, Render unto God the things that are God’s.

In all of our listening and compassion, there is repayment.

And, repayment calls for celebration.


[1] Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island, “Ch. 1, Love Can only be kept by being given away,” New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955, p. 3.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Vineyard Parable of the Landowner & Tenants (2014-10-05)

[__01__]    This Sunday, we read the parable of the tenants and the landowner and the vineyard.

The tenants, we would understand, have signed a …

  • Contract   (OR)
  • Lease agreement (OR)
  • Covenant / agreement  … with the landowner.  
 These tenants – they – dig, cultivate, work the land, prune the grapevines, harvest the grapes by their efforts.

In a strictly agricultural or agri-business or wine industry context, the tenants are the stewards, the caretakers of the soil, the hillside, the vines.

On this weekend of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, they would be reminded of their responsibility to care for all of God’s blessings and creation – animals, sun, moon, stars, even the rainfall and precipitation.)

From the business perspective of the tenants, they can certainly legally – and contractually – keep some of what they grow.

[__02__]      You and I receive certain gifts, certain treasures. But, in all of them, we are not simply trying to figure out what to plant and bury in the ground for our sole personal use later.

Rather, we are called to consider what we can harvest and give back …


[__03__]      OUR INTELLIGENCE / EDUCATION – for all of us, young and old, in school and out of school, we are called to use our intellectual gifts for the good of others.

Doesn’t this apply to everyone…not simply to scientists, engineers, medical doctors?

That is, that we use the gift of our intelligence for God’s goodness. And, for you – boys and girls – to use your minds, your energies, your studies, to serve him.

So, in doing your homework, by staying in school, yes, you are giving back.

You are similar to the tenant who willingly gives up the grapes, the fruit to the landowner.

However, doing your homework, staying in school is only 1 part of this covenant – this agreement – between you and God. The Lord will send his servants to get the harvest…

The Lord will send teachers, parents, supervisors …  to obtain the best from  us, sometimes to ask us to do more than we we are willing to do …

Now, of course, there may be things that we simply cannot do … that are not in our power… but the question raised by the parable is not about “ability” but about voluntary willingness.

The tenants can give back…they are just unwilling.

[__04__]     In other words…. Isn’t it also true that some subject areas, some tasks or, or aspects of life’s curriculum – or core curriculum ? – we are are called to do what is relatively easy and and sometimes to do what is difficult or frustrating.

In school / academia / the academic setting, we are often willing to do more in a subject in which we have, naturally …

  • APTITUDE, fondness, abiltity… something we are good at..

  • AFFECTION … that is, we like the teacher or boss

Don’t we all want to do things in which we excel …
  • Mathematicians want to solve problems in terms of area and volume and numbers

  • Quarterbacks want to throw touchdowns

  • Other examples…painters want to paint..sculptors want to sculpt… writers want to write.

And, in the parable, the tenant farmers were – we are told – proficient – adept  at th cultivation of grapes, the harvest, the pressing of the grapes and the bottling of the wine. This is what they are able to do..

What they are currently unwilling to do is to surrender share the percentage with the owner. Rather, they are launching a hostile takeover of the vineyard.
They also do not recognize that their well-being is connected to that of the owner and the whole community.

Doesn’t the commandment invite us to love God and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.

[__05__]      By resisting the owner of the vineyard, by not sharing, the tenants are showing that they are only willing to love themselves and not others…

[__06__]      In his relationship with his disciples, Jesus does not ask each of us for the same percentage.

To the rich young man/rich young ruler whom he meets on the road, Jesus says, give me 100%, sell all your possessions.

From Zacchaeus the tax collector, Jesus receives 50%. Zacchaeus says he will give half of his possessions to the poor.

Yet, even at the 10% “bracket”, Jesus critiques the scribes and Pharisees for being too demanding, too exact, too precise.

While this 10% is a good measure for many of us, this will not necessarily apply to all of us.

Most of all, what our Savior wants is our open door, our open heart, so that when he sends his servants to us … we would be willing to listen.

These servants could be our children telling us about God’s covenant, our agreement to work in the vineyard the would be asking for a percentage of our attention…. A friend asking for a percentage of our help… an elderly or infirm spouse or relative seeking a percentage of our wisdom at the doctor’s office or at home.

We also might be approached by the teacher / mentor / coach … to whom God wants us to give a greater percentage of our effort.

We maintain our vineyard by listening and welcoming these servants.  [__fin__]