Almighty Dollar or Almighty God?
Homily for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Preached on October 16, 2011 at Pax Christi Catholic Church, Lexington KY
Readings: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b; Matthew 22:15-21
Which one makes the world go around: the almighty dollar or the Almighty God?
As a people of Faith, we believe that the Almighty God keeps this earth rotating on its axis. He has put the moon and the stars in place; His fingers have made the heavens and all that they hold (cf. Ps. 8:4). But, as a people with debts, we sometimes have to wonder whether the almighty dollar is giving God a run for His money. After all, not everyone in this world will accept our creed, yet none will hesitate to take our cash or our credit card. Anyone who has ever been broke will tell us that it takes just a stack of bills to make one feel like the world has stopped on its tracks.
Which one makes the world go around?
The Jews of the first century knew which one called the shots: it was Caesar. The empire was his to rule, the census tax was his to claim. Lest anyone forgot, the currency in circulation was also his; it bore his name and his image (cf. Mt. 22:20-21). It was a reminder that the almighty Caesar lorded over everyone. Even God’s chosen had no choice but to handle and share his graven image that in ages past they were commanded to scorn (cf. Dt. 7:25). Even the Pharisees, the sticklers to the commandments, kept his idolatrous coin in hand and handed one over to Jesus upon demand (cf. Mt. 22:19).
Jesus Himself acknowledged that Caesar had made it big when He pointed out the emperor’s image on a coin and told the crowd to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” (Mt. 22:21). But, by adding the command “give to God what belongs to God” (Mt. 22:21), Jesus also highlighted the preeminence of the Creator’s image and likeness in every soul. Each soul (including Caesar’s) belongs to God and, even though he made that first century world go around, Caesar could not claim any of them for his own.
Caesar once made the known world go around, but he is long gone. New currency, with someone else’s name and image, are in circulation and remind us that we answer now to some other worldly power. Economists will tell us that, no matter whose face is on it, money makes the world go around. And, right now, there is nothing like the almighty dollar to make it spin.
But, when the world stops spinning, it is still the Almighty God who keeps every soul going. It is He who gives strength to the single dad who has lost his job, hope to the widow whose retirement savings account has been drained by a dying economy, direction to the recent graduate who cannot seem to get hired. The almighty dollar can take everyone as far as this world can go; but, only the almighty God can take anyone beyond it.
Today the almighty dollar makes this world go around; someday something else will take its place. But, even then, none would find a substitute for God: He alone is the Lord and there is no other (Is. 45:5).