Just a word… Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time…

Just a word… Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time… October 18, 2020

What is it about taxes that raises our blood pressure? The mere mention of the word tax in today’s gospel conjures up in each of us our own political and economic bias- es and can color what we hear in the rest of the story.

Jesus, confronted by the Pharisees seeking to trap him by his answer to their devi- ous question, recognizes their duplicity and refuses to play their game. Instead of entering into what is essentially a contest of egos, Jesus doesn’t accept the premise of their ques- tion, and counters with one of his own.

Holding their coin in his hands Jesus asks, “Whose image is this and whose inscrip- tion?” Their reply of “Caesar” elicits Jesus’ famous response, “Repay to Caesar what be- longs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” His audience recognizes what belongs to Caesar, of course, as do we. But Jesus’ answer begs another question…what carries God’s face? What is made in God’s image? According to the Book of Genesis, we hu- mans are made in the image and likeness of God. Also scriptural is the idea that all crea- tion reflects the glory of God. So what does that mean for us? What are we expected to render to God?

In the Gospels we see Jesus spending his life trying to make people (us) understand that we were all created to be fully loved, fully alive, fully caring for one another as we journey through this life. Jesus showed us how to avoid falling into the trap of false alter- natives, and to perceive the heart of whatever matter was at hand. Perhaps that is the wor- ship God desires; perhaps that is the tax we pay to belong to God’s kingdom. How are we doing so far?

Before we can rest, assured that we have paid our “tax” to God, let’s think a mi- nute. Are all fully loved, fully alive, living up to their human potential? As long as people are starving, are sick and not helped, as long as neighbors are not treated with compas- sion, until every person has the means to earn a living wage, until everyone has basic hu- man and civil rights, we cannot rest. Our tax to God is not paid.

The Pharisees could easily see the face of Caesar on the Roman coin. Just imagine if we could see as easily the face of God in each other, in every human person…imagine what could happen.

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