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Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Whose Image and Whose Inscription?" In a society of BRANDing


The main message of today, brothers and sisters, is very simply put: our entire life is God's, and everything else needs to fit into that truth.


450 From the beginning of Christian history, the assertion of Christ's lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognized that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Caesar is not "the Lord".67 "The Church. . . believes that the key, the center and the purpose of the whole of man's history is to be found in its Lord and Master."68

2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon."44 Many martyrs died for not adoring "the Beast"45 refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.

We in our society have our own strange gods, our false idols, but I do not think we are temped to worship our government.  But that wasn’t really the point of today’s public showdown anyway, for indeed the Pharisees and Herodians were interested in something that is much closer to our hearts: control, power, popularity, reputation.  What is interesting is the malice of these two groups.  The Pharisees were deeply religious, whereas the Herodians were indeed lovers of Rome and of Herod.  Almost the only thing they could agree on was their dislike for Jesus and the need to bring him down.  Evil always make a mockery of true goodness, just as their collaboration for evil is a perversion of true friendship which is rooted in the good.
But Jesus deftly walks right through their snares with his pithy response to the challenge.
Jesus says: who the image and the inscription? ... what belongs to Caesar... The implicit message is that the image and inscription makes it Caesar's - he made it, or his authority did so.
And you: who made you? You may remember the Baltimore Catechism began with this question. Who made me? God made me.
And that is the main point, clear and simple: God made you. You should give him your entire self, your whole life. And the coin is really quite trivial. It doesn't have the importance we often think. Rather, when we see that our entire life is God's, it is put in the proper perspective.

In our hyper consumerist culture, there is something pretty ironic that we all take for granted: BRAND names are all over us and around us. That word itself, brand, is a good indication of the problem. Branding is what was / is done to animals to claim them as one's property. It was done to slaves when we used to treat human beings as property (and sadly still do). Now we run around with brand names all over us and don't seem to think too much about it. Or perhaps we do when we realize what type of watch or shoes or dress or car this or that person has.
Now this isn't a problem if we remember that it is only the thing that is branded and not ourselves. That we take all that off and strip it away and we still are the same persons with the same dignity, created by a loving God.
The problem is that we often blur those lines: we are tempted to let the brand become an idol.  We are tempted to let Caesar's coin, and all the stuff it can buy, become the defining image of our lives and the source of our dignity.

In our consumerist society, we often give more to Caesar and to the coin than we do to God.  We give lots of time to that coin.  We give lots of worry to that coin.  We pursue that coin in so many ways.  Some of this is necessary: we have an obligation to make good use of our talents, to provide for ourselves and those entrusted to our case, especially the needy.  Thus, the coin is not evil, just as Jesus himself doesn’t shy away from touching it.  We just need to never forget, God has given us everything, as we see in the Eucharist which is His Son, and so we owe Him the same.  Our entire life is God's, and everything else needs to fit into that truth.

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