October 19, 2008 Year A
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
World Mission Sunday
Reflections on the Readings
Theme: In the Image of God
So God created man in his own image.
Whose image do you see when you look into a mirror?
Whose image do you see upon the face of your spouse?
What image does a war criminal bear or serial killer wear? Do the hungry, the naked, or the sick and the lonely have an image?
A baby is left in the garbage outside of Planned Parenthood. Is he imageless?
How about the man or woman emaciated by HIV, left with an empty body and soul, and their emotions strewn among a thousand liaisons? Are they faceless?
The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians have a common enemy in Jesus. To rid themselves of Jesus is their common goal. Pretending to value Jesus as a Teacher, they question him whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. The Jews see Jesus as a religious threat and the Herodians regard Jesus as a political threat. This is the context for Jesus asking whose image is on the coin minted for taxes to be paid to Caesar.
Caesar serves himself in the coins he mints for monetary exchange. Placing his own image on the coins, he elicits homage to his authority through the imposition of taxes. Imprinting his image on the coins he hopes to impress all with his authority and maybe his good looks. One can only wonder how tedious the task for those who struck the coins with his image! The ego of a politician is easily offended.
Jesus states to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's to draw attention to a greater image! God, whose image is upon everyone and whose imprint is upon everything, is greater than Caesar. It is this greater image to which Jesus draws the attention of all.
The injunction to render unto God what belongs to God is not a call to share with Caesar and God equally. Some miss this point. The Incarnation, the event that put King Herod into full alert and rage, demonstrates the truth that God and Government are quite unequal.
Christians make wonderful citizens. They are the salt of the earth. Many serve in functions of Government. They bring a good head and warm heart to the exercise of their authority. We want and need good citizens to lead us and to deliberate for us. Although we regard the separation of Church and State, we should never require the separation of soul and leadership. And voters should not separate their soul from their vote. Let us remember the primary function of government is to foster the protection of life, liberty and peace.
Jesus tells us to render unto God what belongs to God. This is a matter of our heart and the heart of questions such as, "What must I do to be saved?"
When we look into our own hearts, there we see the face of God indelibly imprinted there. Our lives do not consist of the goods and treasures we may accumulate reminding us we are made of better things than silver or gold. These things are perishable, but we are not.
If in our hearts we neglect the plight of the poor or the cause of the widow, do we deny the image of God exists in the least of these? If my brother asks me for a cold glass of water and I give him a cold shoulder, do I deny that Christ died also for him? If my sister is the victim of misinformation and cruel abortuary procedures and I say, "She should have known better! She was raised right and everything!" Am I acting like one who sees in her the image of God, an image needing the compassionate response that says, "The Lord is compassionate and full of mercy?"
Government can print money, but only God can make the soul sing again. Government can make impositions and laws and taxes, but only God can say to my soul, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." Government can mandate and extract, but only God will say to our soul, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, what a wonder you are. You who brought us the good news of our salvation, died to bring salvation's hope to our soul. Anchored in this hope I rest in your love. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Amen.