To understand today’s Gospel, it will help to consider the context. The controversy regarding the census tax comes immediately after the parable of the wedding feast, which we heard last Sunday. It is about a king who puts on a wedding banquet for his son, who is of course is Jesus himself. The parable leads into a series of confrontations with the religious leaders in Jerusalem.
We just heard an account of the first dispute: the question of whether or not to pay the census tax. The Pharisees and Herodians saw this as an issue they could use to trap Jesus. Their eagerness to discredit him came from the fact that he threatened their world. By his parable of the wedding banquet, he had insinuated something quite astonishing: that he is the “king’s son,” but not in some general sense like you and I become children of God in baptism. The parable joins the concept of son to that of bridegroom. Knowing the Hebrew Scriptures, his hearers realized that, in the Bible, the bridegroom of Israel is YHWH, the Lord God himself. Thus, Jesus implies that he is Son in an absolute sense. That implication upset them greatly. To accept it would undo their universe.
At this point, Jesus’ adversaries did something that men everywhere do when a subject gets touchy: They started talking politics. It’s so much easier to talk about the government or even religious controversies rather than face ultimate questions: What am I? What is God? And who is this person who says that he is the bridegroom? Mind you, not just a bridegroom, but the bridegroom. A bridegroom makes an all-encompassing claim on his bride and she joyfully responds; the two become one flesh. As the bridegroom Jesus makes that kind of claim on each one of us.
Jesus' words unsettled the Pharisees and Herodians. They reacted by attempting to mire him in one of those intractable politic discussions. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? The Herodians represented the pro-government position while the Pharisees were the dissenters. The two groups could hotly exchange Scripture verses and make all sorts of accusations and counter-accusations, but rarely did they get the other side to budge. On the contrary, they became more entrenched. They hoped to draw Jesus into this never-ending debate.
Jesus would have none of it. He saw through their ruse. Requesting a coin – which even the anti-government party possessed - he asked whose image was on it. The image of course corresponded to the emperor. Jesus then pronounced one of his most famous epigrams: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
As I have pointed out previously, Jesus is not telling us to compartmentalize our live, but to recognize what really counts. Do not get over-excited about passing things: nations, presidents, wars, courts, stock markets, literature, art, etc. They have their place, although they will fade. There are, on the other hand, things that more directly impinge on ones inner being. Give those things God. They belong to him: your marriage, your children, your money, your conscience, your abilities, your time. Whatever you entrust to God will acquire a lasting value.
A married couple in our diocese gave a beautiful testimony to this. They talked about their financial struggles and the decisions which they faced in the family budget. Worries and troubles overwhelmed them until they started to look at things differently. When all is said and done, they realized, everything comes from God. It all belongs to Him. On their checks, right about the signature line, they had these words imprinted: God owns it all. What a difference that made! And how different your life and mine would be if that truth could penetrate our hearts. God owns it all. Repay to God what belongs to God.
From Archives (for Twenty-Ninth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies (well worth listening)
Pictures from Peru (October 2008 Visit)
Bulletin (Like the rising tide in Puget Sound, Roe v. Wade & Silent No More, death of Joe Cortes)
It is like King Lear howling against the hurricane, but a webite analyzes myths and media distortion surrounding the Los Angeles clergy sexual abuse cases. For example they contrast the misleading report given by the Los Angeles Times with the more accurate report in The Los Angeles Daily Journal:
On Sept. 22 the Second District of the California Court of Appeal issued an important ruling in regard to what information can be made public about priests accused of sexual abuse. But the Los Angeles Times story about the ruling is wrong on some points and so muddled on others that a reader would come away unclear about what exactly happened and what happens next...The Appeal Court ruling was also covered by the Daily Journal. They got it right. Here's the way their story begins...
And speaking of howling against the hurricane, here is Bill Donohue's reaction:
"the archdiocese has sold out its priests by turning over personnel files on men who were born in the 19th century, have long ago died and cannot defend themselves from charges which even the archdiocese admits are not credible."
Novena for Youth (to discover God's plan)
Parish Picture Album
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru