Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Homily for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”

The Gospel this week continues the direction of the previous weeks’ reading of St. Matthew’s account of our Lord’s final weeks in Jerusalem. The setting for his parables and teaching has been the Temple, where he has astonished everyone by teaching with authority.

He has so frustrated the Pharisees that they are continually seeking some way to entrap Jesus through His words. The Pharisees bitterly resented the Roman occupation; the Herodians, however, supported the Romans in order to maintain their own power. Two opposing factions have united in their hatred of Jesus, seeking to destroy Him and end the trouble He has caused.

Thus, their opening line is immediately suspect: “Teacher, we know you are true.” These men care nothing for the truth! They have no desire to hear the truth, nor to seek the truth. They have but one goal: to entrap Jesus through his speech. The trap is clever: either Jesus supports the Pharisees, claiming the payment of the tax is an immoral tribute to Caesar who has no authority; or Jesus supports the Herodians, breaking the Law by recognizing Caesar as the “High Priest” and a god.

Our Lord sees beautifully through the trap – and as only God could do, traps his accusers with their own actions. How? He asks for a denarius. This denarius is the coin of the tax, minted by the Roman empire, and in use throughout the West at this time.

But we must remember that they are in the Temple; and upon producing the denarius, they have convicted themselves – they have carried the image of a pagan emperor into the Temple. And His words cut to the heart: “Whose image, and whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they answer, certainly shamefaced and embarrassed by their futile attempt to entrap the Son of God. But our Lord continues: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”

If the denarius is Caesar’s because it bears his image and inscription, to whom do we belong? “Let us make man in our image and likeness,” God says at the beginning of the Book of Genesis. Scripture reminds us again and again of our inherent dignity as sons and daughters of God, made in His image and likeness. We bear His image on our souls; we belong to Him. And in fact, what exists that does not belong to God? Nothing at all. God is an absolute sovereign, having created everything that exists from absolute nothingness.

Do we, however, follow the Pharisees and Herodians, day after day and week after week, trying to trap God? Do we foolishly pretend to seek the truth, but continually bear the denarius of sin into the Temple area? Not just the Temple of the Catholic Church, but the Temple of our souls. Have we given to Caeasar what rightfully belongs to God?

The question really is profound, and will be presented again in next week’s Gospel in a different way. Is God sovereign over our entire life? Or are there certain areas of our time, or of our abilities, or of our finances, from which we exclude God? Does God play, not just an “important” role in our lives, but is He central? Is He first?

Placing God first in our lives requires a complete transformation of the way in which we view our world. Is everything that I have “mine” first, and then I give some back to God? Or rather, is everything that I have a gift from God? I owe everything back to Him – and more – out of love. We can pretend that we believe this in a “spiritual” way, but the truth comes out when we check our lives.

Although we need to examine our entire lives, from our checkbooks to our entertainments, an excellent area that really helps us see if we love God is to examine our use of time.

Is time my own, or God’s? Do I have “my” time that excludes God? Do I give God the first and most important moments of my day and week? Do I have scheduled times to pray, not just haphazardly, but times that are guaranteed? Is Sunday Mass a real priority? Do I arrive on time, and really use the Mass to pray? And if I’m prepared to receive Holy Communion, do I do so reverently, fully aware of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? And then, do I make a good thanksgiving after Mass? Or do I too easily arrive late to Mass and then leave early?

Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but give to God what is God’s. Time can be the most difficult area of our life to place upon the altar, but God will reward us abundantly for our generosity. He has “called us by name,” as we heard in the First Reading. Blessed will we be when we answer His call to holiness and place Him first in every aspect of our lives.