“[R]epay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” If the coin that pays the census tax belongs to Caesar because it bears his image, then what belongs to God because it bears His image?
I’ll come back to that. The Pharisees today are trying to set a clever trap for Jesus. If Jesus says, “pay the Roman tax” then the crowds will turn on him, because the Romans were foreign occupiers of their country and everybody hated them; if Jesus says, “don’t pay the Roman tax” then the Pharisees can report it to Rome and let the Roman authorities kill Jesus. It’s a pretty clever no-right-answer setup, and they begin by praising Jesus for his truthfulness and for not being concerned about people’s opinion or status, so that whatever he says he can’t back out of it later. But little do they realize how true that observation is.
Jesus doesn’t give regard to status and rank and power because he sees right through it. When he interacts with people, he doesn’t see all the externals; instead, he sees into the heart. So when he looks at a poor cripple, instead of seeing that external reality of someone at the very lowest rung of the social class of his time, he sees a child of God… he sees this beautiful image of creation, loved by the Father, that suffers because of misfortune. Likewise, when he looks at the Pharisees he isn’t blinded by their high place in the community or intimidated by their knowledge… he sees into their often hypocritical hearts that were meant to be holy leaders of the community but instead become obsessed with power and control and the things of the world.
What Jesus sees when he looks at people is the image of God. He sees the truest version of who we were made to be. So back to my question. If the coin that pays the census tax belongs to Caesar because it bears his image, then what belongs to God because it bears His image? We do. We are the things that bear God’s image, and it is our life and our love that are owed to God because we belong to Him. If Christ is our model, if we call ourselves Christians and the disciples of Christ, then we must have those eyes as well. So this week I would like to challenge you to look at your life and ask these a few questions.
First, do you see the image of God in yourself? We often define ourselves by the external things, by our achievements and failures in school, by our popularity and friends, by our social status and wealth… but those things don’t mean anything. Your self worth doesn’t come from there, it comes from being made in the image of God… it comes from the capacity to love others and to hear God’s word and respond to His will. Note that it’s not based on how well you think you have or have not loved the people in your life or sought after the will of God, but that you have the capacity or the ability to do so.
Second, can you offer yourself to God? You are made in God’s image, you belong to Him… you are a creature fashioned by the Creator. God has a name for you that is unique through all of creation, a purpose and vision of who you are supposed to be… but he gives you the freedom to make your own choices, to literally participate in your own creation. So once you have found in yourself that image of God and know your own self worth, are you able to see that your life belongs to the Lord, and that offering it to God is the only way to find that fulfillment of your own creation?
And finally… do you see that image of God in others? Pope Francis just wrote us an encyclical and he repeatedly talks about the dignity of each human person. This dignity is what makes us a human family that finds life in fraternity and community, rather than erecting walls that would separate “us” from “them”. That dignity brings us into conversation, seeking to work together for the good of all, setting aside anger and all the evils that come from it like war and racism. It is a dignity which we must see in everyone, without exception, that cannot be destroyed by someone’s actions because it belongs to God.
So find in yourself the image of God. Rejoicing in it, offer to your very self because you belongs to Him. Then see that image each person you see.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.