Monday, November 10, 2014


(A homily for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time)

The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus when they demanded his opinion about paying taxes to Caesar. One of their guys called out from the crowd,

“(Hey) teacher, ..., what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay (taxes) to Caesar or not? ”

Now Jesus probably had heard this question before and knew that, coming from these guys, the Pharisees, it was a trick question.  At the time of Jesus there were, among the Pharisees those that felt that paying taxes to Caesar was immoral and many faithful Jews agreed with them. Caesar was the title of the Emperor of Rome and so the title represented the civil authority in Palestine at the time. If Jesus agreed with them his enemies would report him to the Romans as a tax dodger. If he disagreed with them they would claim that he was not a faithful Jew.

He asked them to show him the coin that was required to pay the tax. When they handed him a Roman coin. Jesus deflated their trap with a simple question.

Whose image is on the coin? 

Lets try it here. You and I probably have, in our pocket or our purse, some examples of the currency that we use to pay our taxes? Take out one bill and look at it. I see see that many of you are now holding a one dollar bill.

Let me ask each of you - whose image is on that dollar bill? {George Washington}  And what does it say just above his picture? {United States of America}. 

We all agree, then, that this is the "coin", the money, used to pay taxes in our country?

Then we hear Jesus say, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

This confrontation on the shore of the Sea of Galilee gives us a way to understand how we can be both a faithful follower of Christ and a good citizen. Since this reading is usually heard on a fall Sunday and our annual election day comes up every fall in November we remind you that a good Christian not only pays his or her taxes but votes. So be sure you get out and vote in November.

Now Jesus was called “Teacher” by his Disciples and by the Pharisees. However, he was not a teacher of Roman Tax Law nor of Roman civil law regulating life in an occupied country, he was known as a teacher of God’s Truth. Lets listen to Jesus’ statement again.......

“.. repay to Caesar what belong to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”

Obviously Jesus is about the business of teaching about the second part of his declaration, our relationship with God.

If you or I  apply for a Job we are often asked to take tests and participate in an interview where the potential boss asks us questions. We are asked to list our credentials, our degrees and our experience. You might say they are checking if you or I  have the "coin" to do the job.

Likewise, when we encounter God he asks us to show Him the coin of our lives. What are we living for. What is it that we are seeking and what are we doing to obtain it? Our God asks us to open our hearts and tell him:

“Whose image is the coin of our hearts?”

Of course the coin that Jesus will ask you and I about is not literally a metal coin or paper bill. What is the coin of our lives and how can we determine the image on that coin?

Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians (that we read today) says he thanks God for them (the Thessalonians) because of their Faith, Hope and Love (Charity). You might say he recognizes them as Christians because the coin of their lives are Faith Hope and Love.

Bankers will evaluate the value of coins and bills based upon the financial strength of the issuing country and its banking system. In the case of money the image or inscription on the coins or bills identifies the issuing country and thus their value.

In the case of the coin of your life or mine, our Faith, Hope and Love, the issue is who stands behind this coin.

Paul goes on to say,

“The Gospel did not come to you in word alone but also in the power of the Holy Spirit,” 

Just as in money there is a big difference between currencies that are created by printing and those  currencies that are backed by an economy and reserves.

You might say the value of a currency backed only by a printing press is zero but the currency backed by a strong economy and reserves is high. Thus different currencies are rated differently in comparison to each other. Even if currencies come in the same denominations, as Canadian and US currencies are both called dollars and cents, they are given different values in the market place.

And so when we look at the Faith, Hope and Love of our lives we are concerned with whose economy and reserves is backing them.

When anyone asks to see currency of your life does the image of our God shine through?

At the end of your life, when God asks you whose image is on your coins, will you be able to say your life reflected the image of God?   Or will your spiritual coins reflect the images of other gods, gods such as money, power, pleasure or self worship? 

When Jesus asks you about your coins of faith, hope and charity will you be able to show they bear the mark of God’s economy and not that of man. That they are of great value because they are backed by the power and reserves of the Holy Spirit? 

My friends, if we belong to God, the "coin" of our lives must clearly reflect His image.

© Copyright 2014 Joseph E. Hilber. All rights reserved. 

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