Give What to Who? ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OP

Reading 1: IS 45:1, 4-6

Responsorial Psalm: PS 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10

Reading 2: 1 THES 1:1-5B

Gospel: MT 22:15-21

Liturgical colour: Green.

Let us begin by looking at our Gospel reading today in MT 22: 15=21:

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

So, what we are being told here?

Today, We are hearing about Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees and Herodians.

The Pharisees and Herodians were well known to have hated each other, but they were willing to put aside their differences to focus their energy  on working together with the purpose of bringing down Jesus.  They conspired together to attempt to trap him.  If Jesus said that they shouldn’t pay their taxes, he would  be arrested and imprisoned by the Romans.  But if he told people that they must pay the taxes,, he would’ve across as being unpatriotic to the people of Israel.  So what does he do?  He takes the coin and utters that timeless phrase: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”

Jesus focuses a lot on using images.  Caesar’s image was the image of the realm at that time.  Caesar’s image was the face of power, his face represented far more than just being Caesar, but  of the power of Rome itself.  It was the currency used by the great Roman Empire, and Roman coins were spread throughout the entire known world.  But ultimately, the empire ran it’s course and  eventually it fell apart.  Now, Roman coins are worth more for their rarity and antiquity than they are for their value.  Like Caesar’s coins, the things of this world are only  temporary in nature.  We know that we have a responsibility to render to the world those things that belong to it, like paying taxes, or voting, or maybe by buying things to provide comfort and flourishing for our physical lives here on earth.  These things are important to some extent, don’t get me wrong!  So go out there, and give to Caesar what  belongs to Caesar, give to the world what belongs  to the world, – but be assured that it is only temporary.

But as powerful as Caesar’s image may have been, or indeed the things of the world  currently  may be, there is another image that is even  far more powerful, and that carries far more responsibility – this is the image of God.  But it isn’t  upon coinage or upon the paper money of the world that bears the image of God, it our souls! Each of us, when we received the Holy sacrament of  our baptism, received an indelible, irremovable mark.  And that mark shows us that baptism doesn’t just make us card-carrying members of the Christian community.  It doesn’t just remove the stain from our original sin.  It also marks us, it seals us, with the mark of God, indicating that just as those coins bearing Caesar’s image belonged to Caesar, we ourselves belong to God!  And that mark won’t ever fade away with time like the Roman Empire, or today’s worldly things will be their temporary nature, This will last forever – we are God’s forever if we choose to be!!

I would say it is likely that the majority of us don’t have too many issues giving Caesar his due, and in fact, you’re probably feeling like you give him enough already.  That’s not the issue we are dealing  with here.  It’s the second part that is challenging.  It is the giving to God what is God’s – the living out of our baptismal dignity and making that indelible mark, that image of God on our souls actually mean something!  So what do we give to God?  What is it that belongs to God that we can give to God?  The answer is shown to us right here in the Cross of our Lordand saviour, Jesus Christ.  The gift that we can and indeed ought to give is the gift of ourselves.  It is a gift of self-sacrifice, a gift of self-emptying love!

“Give to God what belongs to God.”  This is the gift of a mother or father to their children, providing  them with clothes, shelter, education, faith, and despite the exhaustion and strain on the finances, doing it out of love. “Give to God what belongs to God.”  It’s the gift to the poor – whether this be the donating of food stuffs to the local food bank, or  whether it be offering days  working with a charity, to help those who are in need. “Give to God what belongs to God.”  It is putting God first in our lives, by taking that one hour to go to Mass, even if it is a busy day of  football games or doing other non essential things.  It’s about more than that hour! Much more! it’s about putting aside distractions, or tiredness,  to simply praise God, as he deserves!

As we approach the Lord in the Holy Eucharist today, we realize the need to live in the world, but we know in our hearts that we no longer in truth, belong to the world, the world is a temporary place we are merely passing through. We belong to God!!  May we have the grace to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what he truly deserves, the gift of our whole hearts, and lives!!

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