Caesar or God

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

The Pharisees were so concerned about their good status before the people. As we saw the past few Sundays, the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders saw themselves as the disobedient son in the parable of the two sons. In the parable of the wicked husbandmen they saw themselves as the wicked caretakers. In the parable of the king’s feast they were the unworthy and ungrateful guests. And they were angry with Jesus. This time they wanted to test Jesus and find something wrong in Him so that they could be justified in bringing Jesus to their courts. They would bring the King of the universe and the origin of human laws before human courts and emperors.

From today’s readings, let us reflect on the following:

1. Jesus asks us to be mindful of what is worthy of human beings and what is worthy of God.

A person was trying to decide whether or not the money that he got was for him or for God. So he decided to do a lottery between him and God. He told God, “I will toss these bundles of money in the air. What goes up is yours, what comes down is mine.” So he did. And sure enough, the money became his.

The Bible tells us of the rich man who was so comfortable with what he had that he would put all grain in his barn, sit, eat and drink, and be merry. However, God said, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong” (Lk 12:20)? What is worthy of God is mercy and compassion, a sorrowful and humble heart, a faithful, hopeful and loving heart that will lead others to a realization that God is alive and working in the lives of people. The problem is that greed and pride and jealousy eat up peoples’ hearts, so they become heartless and self-centered. They are never satisfied with what they have, that even the little things that others enjoy, they would still take. So Jesus tells the Pharisees and the elders: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God (Mt 22:21).

2. God calls each one of us by name and proclaims that there is no one else like Him in the universe. The neighboring nations of Israel were worshiping many different gods that allowed them a life of pleasurable, worldly and even sinful activities. The Israelites were worshiping only One God who wanted that they follow only His commands. The Israelites envied the other nations and would also worship their gods. In God’s wrath He would punish them.

The world is offering people so much to worship. It has created its own gods out of what it has and out of peoples’ cravings. It has created gods of power, of money, of pleasure, of convenience, of fame, of the stomach and many others.

We have been called children and heirs of God’s Kingdom. We have to respond to his call. Many times, though, we are deafened by calls for temporal activities and “are trapped in a milieu of monologues, inattentiveness, noise, intolerance and self-absorption” (Bp. Tagle at the Synod on God’s Word Considers God’s Listening, Oct 10, 2008). God calls, and He expects us to respond to Him so that we may grow in faith and in the exercise of our freedom to be His children.

3. St. Paul encourages us, as he encouraged the Thessalonians, to grow in the “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thes 1:3). So we continue our good works in the faith and live in the commands of the Lord.

This is a sign that we are called to join Him in His Kingdom together with Mary, our Mother, and all the Saints. As we celebrate the Eucharist, we stand before all the heavenly court singing the praises of God, and proclaiming that what we celebrate is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and blessed are we who are called to His banquet.

May God bless you and your families, and reward you now and in the life to come for your openness, your generosity and your good examples in the faith.

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