TOTAL COMMITMENT, ABSOLUTE LOYALTY

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time          

            A pig said to a chicken, “What shall we have for breakfast?” The chicken suggested, “Let’s have ham and eggs.” The pig said, “Oh no, not ham!” “Why not? The chicken replied, I’ll provide the eggs and you the ham.” The pig said, “For you, ham and eggs for breakfast is a gesture of great generosity, but for me, it is an act of total commitment!”

            The truth is this: Commitment, in the religious sense, is nothing less than the complete giving of oneself to God. Generosity follows commitment – but commitment comes first. Generosity has to be rooted in commitment.

            One of the main themes of today’s gospel reading is commitment. This is what we can surmise from Jesus’ statement: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” and to God what belongs to God.” The implication of this command was obvious to all who heard it: Give to God what rightfully belongs to God. Give your coins to Caesar when you must; but give yourselves to God. Are we giving ourselves to God completely? Are we giving to God what belongs to God?

            Let us not forget the preceding question: “Whose image is this?” To understand this and to see its implication, we need to go back to the Book of Genesis – where it says: “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” What is the implication of this? Since God’s image is on us, God’s claim on us calls for total commitment and absolute loyalty.

            What Jesus is saying is this: Caesar’s image may be on your coins, but God’s image is on you, and you belong to God! As one gospel commentary puts it: “We are the coin of God’s realm. God’s likeness stamped on us declares that we belong wholly and entirely to God.”

            Today’s gospel message calls for an examination of all our commitments and loyalties. It suggests that all our earthly loyalties are just secondary. And they must be reevaluated continually in light of our primary and ultimate commitment to God.

            We cannot deny that we all have legions of loyalties. Sometimes there are too many for our own good. Where we put our mind, where we invest our heart, where we devote our time, where we exhaust our energy, where we spend our resources shows where our loyalty lies. We can be so loyal to a particular persons or things that they can dictate us – what we think, say, and do. We feel that the strings of power and persuasion tied to us need only to be tugged a bit or pulled a little, and then we have to move as they direct. Like what puppeteers do with their puppets.

            The school we study in, the group we belong to, the company we work for, the administration we serve and defend, the family we are part of, the possessions we own (more so, the ones we are still paying for) – all these things exercise varying degrees of control over our lives. To a large extent they determine how we spend our time, our money, our energy, our being. We must admit that these things become God’s rivals as far as our faithfulness and loyalty is concerned – especially when we fail to put them in their proper places.

            “Give to God what belongs to God” – the only conclusion to draw from this commandment is to give ourselves to God…to render to God our total commitment. Thus, all other loyalties must be given or withheld subject to the direction and correction of that first and absolute loyalty to God. Our loyalty to our family must be directed by our commitment to follow God’s will for us. Our loyalty to the people we are under must be directed by our commitment to obey God’s commandments. Our loyalty to the company we work for must be directed by our commitment to work for the kingdom of God. Only then can commitment to God become a kind of gravitational force that gives us some stability and balance when all the strings on our lives are being pulled this way and that way.

            Commitment to God is no guarantee of comfort – be it material or emotional. In fact, it produces its own tension, because it demands that we constantly reexamine all our other loyalties to be certain that they are in their proper places. I hope and pray that we always remember this: All our commitments are subject to God’s claim upon our lives.

            “Give to God what belongs to God.” Let us render to God our total commitment. May each of us remember, each day, in whose image and for whose purposes we are created.

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