Who in their right mind starts a debate with Jesus and expects to win?” In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees’ disciples and Herodians try to trap Jesus by presenting an either/or quandary – “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” The tax in question was imposed on every adult man, woman and slave in Judea, and was to be paid in Roman coin. Israelite nationalists resisted the tax to the point of armed rebellions. Additionally, the denarius used for payment was stamped with an image of the emperor and called him the son of God – not at all in keeping with Jewish sensibilities. This was an emotionally charged question designed to get Jesus in trouble with one camp or the other.
The first setback for those trying to trip Jesus up came when they presented the coin that paid the tax. They obviously had been paying the tax. Worse yet the coin was considered idolatrous because it had a “graven image” (Exodus 20:3-5) and referred to the emperor as a son of God. Jesus pointed out that the coin obviously must belong to the one whose face it portrayed. (It surely couldn’t belong to faithful Israelites!)
Jesus had successfully confounded those sent to investigate his orthodoxy. But his goal went beyond winning the debate. This was a teaching moment. Thus his question about whose image and inscription pointed beyond coin and toward God. The unarticulated question hanging over the whole conversation asks where one encounters the image, works and words of God.
The final answer is that everything belongs to God. Even Cyrus, the pagan king who is spoken of in the reading from Isaiah, belongs to God and does God’s work. God’s work can come in the most unexpected means. All we can do is try to be attentive to God’s activity in our midst, doing our best to remain aware and even become grateful, that God does not play by our rules. (Taken from Celebration by Sr. Mary M McGlone)
People have asked me how the priests gathering at the lake went. It was good to get together with brother priests in a relaxed atmosphere. Our presenter gave us overview of the Gospel of Mark which will be the Gospel we hear from in the upcoming Church Year (Year B). It was a good review. It is always good to come home.
By now the synod in Rome has finished their initial work. As I understand it they will gather again next year to finish the work of the synod. Our leaders in the church need our prayers as they continue to guide us in a way that expresses who we are as God’s people.
Happy Nametag Sunday.