29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

GOSPEL REFLECTION: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
19th October 2014

First Reading: Isaiah 45:1,4-6
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5ab
Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"

But Jesus aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius.

Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title? They answered, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."



Everybody needs a little affirmation. Some people have this tendency to like being complimented. And who doesn't want to hear good things said about themselves? Of course, we always want to feel good about ourselves. But we need to be careful. One should be able to distinguish a sincere compliment to a plain flattery.People who are most susceptible to flattery are either those people who are too proud or those people who are lacking in self-esteem. It is important that we be more complimentary of others. But the bottom line is for us to be always honest and sincere in dealing with people. We should help build people up and to offer deserving compliments and encouragement.One should avoid flattery. To be a flatterer is hypocritical. For it is always done with malicious and evil intent. In today's Gospel text, our Lord Jesus encounters people just like that in the persons of the Pharisees along with the Herodians. Even though these two groups of people were opposed to each other yet they joined against Christ. It proves therefore that when people have the same enemies they became allies. We see them in today's Gospel united in wanting to put Jesus down. To present a different tact, they started everything with a praise to trap Jesus. "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth." Then they asked Jesus this question, "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" The question posed to Jesus was a trick. Jesus sensed that it was not answerable by a simple 'yes' or 'no' If Jesus says 'yes' then he alienates himself from his poor Jewish country men who are suffering under the Roman tax. It was like a betrayal of his own country men. But if he says 'no' he will be arrested and imprisoned by the Romans. But no one can outsmart Jesus. And so he took a coin and uttered that timeless phrase: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" This particular phrase has become very controversial. And for me, often misinterpreted. Some People use this to keep religion out of politics and government , thus they say that Jesus intended a separation of Church and State. But let us not forget that Jesus said the phrase to escape from a trap. Jesus framed his answer in such enigmatic language that it wouldn't be easy for either the Pharisees or the Herodians to trap him. It is foolish to think that Jesus' statement about "render to Caesar" is Jesus' version of separation of Church and State. In fact, is there anything that does not belong to God? Everything belongs to God. The coin belongs to God. Even Caesar belongs to God.Nothing in this world that does not belong to God. "Give to God what belongs to God," therefore doesn't mean separation. God created the institution of the family. God created the institution of the Church. God created the institution of society. God created the institution of government.Jesus' answer simply implies the truth- that our life comprised two realities i.e. the worldly and the spiritual. We are in the world and so are bound by the rules of the world, and we are spiritual and so are bound by the laws of God as well. We need to observe and respect the government and we need to pay service to God. Again, this particular text is not about the separation of Church and State. As I tell you what it is not.Allow me to tell you what it is all about.It is all about our love and loyalty to God. "Give to God what belongs to God." It is putting God first in our lives. Is God our priority? Jesus is telling us to get our priorities right. Look at what really matters. Give to God what He truly deserves, the gift of our whole hearts.Loving God with all our hearts means giving him our whole heart, not holding anything back. This love that we are called to is a choice. We choose freely and joyfully. Jesus doesn't want only our passive admiration or a shallow devotion, He wants our whole heart.1 Samuel 16:7 "Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, I will glorify your name forever."

Can we honestly say "I am truly in love with God." The problem with us is that we give our heart out to things that cannot love us back, like material things. But if we seek God with all our heart, we will certainly find God. Jesus must call your heart home. He must dwell in your heart. A sign that He is dwelling in our heart is that there is a desire in us to have a deeper relationship with Him.By receiving Him in the Sacrament, by knowing Him in the Scripture, by establishing a deeper relationship through communication in prayer and by practicing in our own life his example of love by doing charity to others.

Have you ever wondered why some couples start to look like each other after years of marriage? You may have seen older couple and thought they looked just alike.The more marital happiness a couple reported, the greater their increase in facial resemblance. The longer they live together and know each other, they eat the same food, breathe the same air, face the same challenges, they eventually look like each other. Similarly, the more we talk to Jesus, the more we think of Him, the more we share our troubles, the more we imbibe in us the image of Jesus and eventually we become like Him.

"Render to God the things that belongs to God," means making Him our priority in life. St. Theresa of Avila says "Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing; God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever possesses God lacks nothing, God alone suffices."
To God be all the glory!