Bottom line: With Jesus we can realize the purpose of our lives: Yes, be a good citizen, but most important, recognize the image of God within and return to God: "repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."
Today we see Pharisees send out their disciples - along with King Herod's men. Why? To entrap Jesus. They start with some flattery: "Teacher...you are a truthful man...not concerned about anyone's opinion...or status."
Then they spring a gotcha question: "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" If Jesus says "yes" he discredits himself as a Roman sympathizer. On the other hand, if he says "no" Herod's men will report him to the authorities.
So Jesus asks to see a coin. Interesting, he doesn't have one. Holding up the coin, he asks "Whose image is this and whose inscription?" The image shows Emperor Tiberius Caesar and the inscription says Caesar is "the high priest...the son of the god Augustus". Remember, the Bible prohibits making images to false gods.
So, don't worship Caesar. But Jesus does say, "repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar". We have certain duties to Caesar, to the the government: don't cheat on your taxes, obey legitimate laws, vote.
Jesus, however, adds "and to God what belongs to God". What does belong to God? Well, if Caesar's image is on the coin, where do we find God's image?
The Bible gives us the answer: "God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Gen 1:27) God stamps his image on each human being. That's the basis for human equality. I know people who are smarter than me, stronger than me, better looking than me. On a human level we are wildly unequal. Aristotle who is called the "father of the scientific method" thought that some people are natural masters and others are natural slaves. If I lived in Aristotle's world, I'd probably be in the latter category. Thanks be to God, our civilization not only comes from Athens where Aristotle lived. It also comes from Jerusalem. From the Bible we learn the fundamental dignity we share because God made us in his image.
So, repay to God what belongs to God. We repay our children to God. Ultimately they are not ours. They don't belong to us in an absolute sense. They belong to God because he imprinted his image on them.
Two weeks ago we heard about a 15-year-old boy who repaid his soul to God: Blessed Carlo Acutis. Like all young people he had to discover his purpose. He stated it simply, "To always be close to Jesus, that's my plan." You know, we bear God's image but we have scarred that image. Only one bears it perfectly: Jesus. That's why we must return to him - and stay close to him.
With Jesus we can realize the purpose of our lives: Yes, be a good citizen, but most important, recognize the image of God within and return to God: "repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." Amen.
From Archives (Twenty-Sixth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru