The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are
God’s.” Matt. 22:15-21.
We find ourselves in the season of stewardship in most churches, and I thought we might discuss a few thoughts on the subject. (Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a plea for you to give money to the Church or to the poor, although both are very good ideas.) But we might discuss our stewardship over the most important asset we have been given: our lives.
Scripture teaches that each of us were made in the image of God, and St. Paul instructs us that our lives are not our own: we were bought with a price. I wonder how often we treat the lives we were given with awe and reverence, and how often our lives are squandered? We are appropriately reminded at the beginning of each Lent, “Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.” Our time and lives are precious, and we are called to treat ourselves as craftsmen creating a precious work.
When asked how he sculpted a work as wonderful as David, Michelangelo supposedly said, “I looked at the stone and began to carve away everything that was not David.” Other sources report that he said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
It seems to me that our spiritual struggle works something like that. As good stewards of our lives, we need to take stock of those things that stand between us and God. Whether it’s our material possessions, a long-standing quarrel or some hell of our own making, we are called chip away those things that are not part of the authentic lives we were meant to lead. Our lives do not belong to Caesar, to the mortgage company, to fashion, or to any addiction. Rather we are, all of us, children of the Living God.
Reading today’s lectionary from St. Matthew, we might appropriately ask, have we given to the Lord those things that belong to Lord? Have we welcomed his children, or fed them when they were hungry? Have we offered our friendship to those who are outcasts? Have we treated our time in prayer and worship as a treasured gift, or as an obligation to be met? As good stewards, God calls each of us to look at the angels within our lives and (like Michelangelo) set them free.
James R. Dennis, O.P.
© 2011 James R. Dennis