Discover to whom we all belong
By living Gospel values, we demonstrate that we are genuine disciples
October 20, 2002 -- 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. How important is a sense of belonging in your life?
2. To whom do you belong?
3. How do you stay connected with the significant people in your life?
A line I heard several years ago in a public lecture got my
attention: "Find out what belongs to whom, and give it back!" I
quickly ran to my bookshelf and found four books that were not
mine. By nightfall they were in the possession of their owners.
Jesus responded to the ploy of entrapment by the Pharisees by
making it clear that certain things belong to the State and certain
things to God. Good citizenship means that we pay our taxes to
support the common good be it our schools, roads, libraries, or
social security. Good Christianity means that we give to God our
obedience and remain faithful to the kingdom. We do have joint
citizenship both here on earth and in heaven. It's good to know
which coinage is which.
St. Paul had clarity about what belongs to whom. In no uncertain
terms he begins his letter to the Thessalonians with a reminder: ".
. .[you] belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." We
are God's possession, a God who gives us life and liberty, faith
and family, a God who is the origin of all good things. That makes
us trustees of those many gifts. Again St. Paul points out three of
these gifts that the Thessalonians had received and were using
well: ". . . we are constantly mindful of the way you are proving
your faith, and laboring in love, and showing constancy of hope in
our Lord Jesus Christ."
Faith, hope, love -- the great theological virtues given to us
but ultimately belonging to God. We prove our faith by living
Gospel values; we labor in love by showing active concern for those
in need; we show hope by trusting in divine providence. This type
of life, embraced with joy and courage, demonstrates that we are
Isaiah the prophet speaks about a "Caesar" in his own day, a man
by the name of Cyrus. The Lord chose this foreigner to shape a
certain portion of history. Twice the prophet informs us that Cyrus
did not know God, he did not know to whom he belonged. Despite this
ignorance, Cyrus was an instrument and did the bidding of the
A sense of belonging is one of our deepest needs. Yet
disconnection is one of our most common experiences. Why is this
the case? Perhaps, like the pagan Cyrus, we simply don't know. Many
people do not believe that we are created by God and redeemed by
Christ and led by the Holy Spirit. There is a "disconnect" here and
a sense of forlornness and isolation. We are thrown into the
universe and are attached to no one or anything. Much
discouragement and despair can be associated with this lack of
How do we get reconnected? How do we gain that right
relationship with God that brings both peace and joy? It is not by
anything that we do. Rather, it is the work of God and comes to
those who open their minds and hearts to the grace of conversion.
By turning from darkness to light, from indifference to love, from
death to life we discover who we are and to whom we belong. It is
all the work of grace.
So, "is it lawful to pay tax to the emperor or not?" That's not
the real question. Rather, "is it wise to place our lives at the
disposal of a God who is creator, redeemer, and sanctifier?" Here
is the real question. When answered affirmatively, we enter deeply
into the community of faith, hope, and love. When failing to do so,
we stay in our lost condition and must await the next invitation of
grace which tells us who we are and to whom we belong.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green