Oct 20, 2014

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Last Sunday, we heard Jesus tell the parable of the Wedding Feast. The Pharisees knew that they were those who refused the invitation or those who mistreated and killed the servants of the king. For that reason, the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They don’t go to Jesus themselves. Instead they send their disciples together with the Herodians. These disciples and the Herodians ask Jesus: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” But listen to how they ask him: “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?”

They call him “Teacher,” put they are not his disciples (disciple means student). In reality, they do not care what he is going to say, since they only want to trap him. If he says, “Yes, it is lawful to pay the tribute,” they will accuse him to the people, saying that he is not the Messiah, since he does not wish for Israel to be free from foreign domination. If he says, “No, it is not lawful,” then they will accuse him to Herod and the Romans as an imperial traitor. They are trying desperately to curry favor with Jesus by flattery, hoping that he will let his guard down and take them into his confidence: “we know that you are a truthful man and teach the way of God.” But, knowing their malice, Jesus says, “Show me the coin” and “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they reply.

Roman money had an image and an inscription on it, just like our money does. Our quarter of a dollar has the face of George Washington on it. The inscriptions read: “Liberty” and “In God we trust” on the front. And on the back it says, “E pluribus unum” (Out of many people, one). The money for the tribute had the face of Tiberius Caesar on it. And the inscription read, “Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus.” which means Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus. The Pharisees and the Herodians had seen or heard of the deeds, miracles and teachings of Jesus. All of his works and miracles and even his teachings, had the image of God on them. His deeds and words bore the image of God, because He is the image of the invisible God.

St. Paul writes in his letter the Colossians (1:15-20): “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born  of all creation. For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy: Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell; And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.”

We are made in the image and likeness of God. God said: Let us make man in our image and likeness ... and God created man in his image ... man and woman he created them. (Gen. 1:26-27) And in our baptism, the image of the only Son of God is sealed in us. We are so united to the Son, that we form only one body and one Spirit with him. All that the Son has, he has offered to the Father in order to redeem us from slavery to sin. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ: As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity. Who has predestined us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will: Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he has graced us in his beloved son.” (Eph. 1:1-6)

Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, says Jesus. We do have to pay taxes. We should be good citizens. We have to follow the laws, unless those laws are contrary to the truths of God. But now, look at your life. Look into your soul. “Whose image is it?” Is it the image of the approval of the world? Are you more conformed to the image of Caesar, that is the image of this world or is your life conformed to the image of the Only Begotten Son of God? What is the difference between your life and the lives of those who do not belong to Christ and his Church? Jesus also says, “Give to God what belongs to God.” And to God belongs not only my money, my possessions, my loyalty but also and above all: my heart, my mind, my body, my soul. Today there is no longer a Roman Empire nor a Roman Emperor. “Sic transit gloria mundi – Thus passes the glory of the world!” And one day, this world also, will vanish. But God remains forever, his glory is forever! “Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and praise; give to the Lord the glory due his name!”

“O God, almighty Father, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.”

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