If I may paraphrase from the Gospel of Matthew today,
Repay to Civil Government what belongs to Civil Government,
and repay to God what belongs to God.
Actually, nothing really belongs to civil government—for those of faith, It ALL belongs to God! Recall Jesus’ words to Pilate, “You would have no authority, unless it were given you by my heavenly Father.” (Just so, I wouldn’t recommend trying to use this with the IRS or with the Franchise Tax Board…just saying.)
First of all, Psalm 96 invites us to “Give the Lord glory and honor.” “Glory to God in the highest” pretty much fulfills Jesus’ instruction to give to God what belongs to God (in the liturgy, anyway). We proclaim or sing The Gloria very frequently during the liturgical year, but do we live it? I mean, at the end of any given day, did our thoughts, actions, and decisions consistently glorify the Lord? This is indeed a great examination of conscience.
In some ways, the Gloria in its new translation may seem “wordier” or “too much.” That’s just the point! The new translation is meant rather to communicate Glory to God excessively. We cannot give God too much praise and glory for all that God has done for us!
The Liturgy of Word at any Mass will always be our best inspiration and guide to living a day that winds up giving God the glory—by the way we act as disciples and stewards. Today, for instance, the words of the scriptures serve very well as guide to anyone who claims to have any authority—from parents to principal to pastor to president. Isaiah declares what should be the right attitude of any leader, “I have called you by your name, giving you title. . . . I am the Lord, there is no other!” And then St. Paul, a man called to exercise the God-given authority of an apostle, says to members of his flock, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers.” Do those of us sharing in God’s authority actually pray for those under our supervision? Even more challenging, do we see ourselves in service to them?
What belongs to God, then, is The Glory—the glory of all God’s creation. Earthly authority gets what belongs to “Caesar”—imperfect human allegiance and obedience, and, at best, for the sake of our common good. Remember Jesus’ words to Pilate: “You would have no authority unless it were given to you by my Heavenly Father.” It’s not just Hebrew National that “answers to a higher authority.”
In the more profound understanding of The Mass we celebrate together, with you I am truly humbled before God and with you I give God the Glory!