A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 47)
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – October 16, 2005
“Repay to God What Belongs to God”
Is 45:1, 4-6 // I Thes 1:1-5b // Mt 22:15-21
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
After hearing in these past three Sundays the Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Tenants and the Parable of the Marriage Feast, all of which were directed at Jesus’ opponents, the Sunday assembly now hears the second controversy story (Mt 22:15-21). In this episode concerning paying taxes to the emperor, the evangelist Matthew deals with an insidious trap brought to naught by Jesus.
The American scholar, Harold Buetow introduces the Gospel story: “When the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech (v. 15), the issue they decided to use was taxes. The Herodians whom the Pharisees enlisted were the party of the dynasty of Herod the Great, who was king by leave of the Romans, and so they were the toadies of the Romans. The Pharisees didn’t have much in common with the Herodians. But they often joined forces to gang up against Jesus. In order to make their plot less obvious, they sent their disciples (v. 16). These piously posed as men resolved only to follow their conscience. After beginning with unctuously flattering words, they proceeded to their loaded question: Is it morally acceptable to pay the census tax to the emperor or not? (v. 17). Now, the Christian Scriptures generally see Rome as a positive influence. Rome provided order and stability, and was, in the early days, the protector of the Church against Jewish zealots … But should a person pay taxes to an empire which worships pagan gods? to an emperor who considered himself a god? In the highly-charged atmosphere of oppression, Roman taxation posed a cruel dilemma to God-fearing Jews … If Jesus said the tax should not be paid, he would be open to a report of sedition by the Herodians to Rome and arrested for it. But to say the tax should be paid would be false to Israel’s most cherished hopes, would lose even good-willed Pharisees, and would constitute a public renunciation of his messianic character which so excited the enthusiasm of the people. What the Herodians and Pharisees wanted was some rash statement, either in favor of Roman rule or in total rejection of it.”
Recognizing their hypocrisy and evil intent, Jesus eluded the trap by asking them to show him a coin that pays the census tax. When they handed him the Roman coin, he asked them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied “Caesar’s”. Jesus then confounded them with a masterly retort: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22:21).
The great preacher, Fulton Sheen comments: “Our Lord took no sides, because the basic question was not God or Caesar, but God and Caesar. That coin used in their daily marketing showed they were no longer independent from a political point of view. In that lower sphere of life, the debt to the government should be discharged … Once again he was saying that his kingdom was not of this world; that submission to him is not inconsistent with submission to secular powers; that political freedom is not the only freedom. To the Pharisees who hated Caesar came the command: Give unto Caesar; to the Herodians who had forgotten God in their love of Caesar came the basic principle: Give unto God. Had the people rendered to God his due, they would not now be in their present state of having to render too much to Caesar. He had come primarily to restore the rights of God. As he told them before, if they sought first the kingdom of God and his justice, all these things such as political freedom would be added unto them.”
This Sunday’s Gospel reading underlines our primary duty to render to God his rights. Jesus challenges his opponents to be as observant in paying their debts to God as they are in paying their debts to the emperor. Celia Sirois remarks: “If the image of Caesar stamped on a coin means that the coin belongs to Caesar, then the image of God stamped on each and every human being means that each and every one belongs to God.”
Jesus Christ, the icon of God, is the model of what it means to manifest the divine image and of the righteous way of rendering to God what is due to him. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619) asserts: “Christ undoubtedly gave Caesar what was Caesar’s and God what was God’s … Those therefore who resemble Christ in their lives, conduct, and practice of virtues, they are the ones who truly manifest the divine image; for the way to recover this image is by being absolutely just. Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s; that is, give each what belongs to him.”
by Nicanor Labis PACEM
(Member: Pastoral Assistance and Community Education Mission)
Giving to God what is due him is an example of purging our selves from evil. Jesus will only come to rule our lives if we surrender ourselves to him. We know that this is the only way; but we also know that many people find it very hard to surrender themselves to Jesus. There are various reasons but usually, these are our inordinate attachments. The word “inordinate” means “not in order”. An inordinate attachment, therefore, is that attachment which is not in conformity with the order established by God.
Attachment is normal to man. For instance, children are by nature attached to their parents and vice versa, husband and wife to each other. There is actually nothing wrong with these attachments that are willed by God. What makes it wrong or inordinate is when they draw us away from God. Remember that we have come from the Lord and we are for others. Such attachments may be classified as attachments to persons, to places and to things. If we are attached, we cannot go all the way in surrendering ourselves to the Lord. We cannot be his followers if we are not able to renounce these attachments when the duty of discipleship warrants it. God should be above all of these relationships so that we can offer him freely our time, talents and treasures, by serving our brothers and sisters in need of our concern and love.
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. What is the state of our personal relationship with God and of our human community with God? How does the present political and social situation affect and shape our relationship with our Creator and saving God?
B. Are we deeply aware that the divine image stamped on every human person intensely obliges us to love and serve God with absolute dedication? How does this avowal of belonging to God affect our daily life?
C. How do we treasure the image of God within us? Is our life filled with thanksgiving for Jesus Christ, the icon of God, who gave his life for us that we may render to God the things that are God’s?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(Cf. prayer from the Grail.)
Leader: Jesus said: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Assembly: Lord Jesus,
I give you my hands to do your work.
I give you my feet to go your way.
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you my mind that you may think in me.
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me.
Above all, I give you my heart that you may love in me,
your Father, and all mankind.
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me,
so that it is you, Lord Jesus, who live and work in me.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Mt 22:21)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Pray that there may be true justice in this world and that everyone may render to God all what is due to him. Endeavor to build a more harmonious and just society by rendering your just contribution to the needs of the poor and the marginalized.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may rightly render to God his due and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 47): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323