From the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we hear,
God created mankind in his image;
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
We are made in the image of God. We are made to share divinity with God. We were made, like Adam and Eve, to live forever with God, sharing eternal life with Him. This is God’s plan of Salvation for us.
The Jews knew this well. The Pharisees understood this very well. The prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah.
But, when God became man in His Son, Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders, the High Priests and the Pharisees refused to accept the prophecy; they refused to see Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Nothing Jesus said or did would change their stubbornness. Instead, they plotted to kill him, even after seeing his miracles.
It was not unusual in Jesus’ time for kings and emperors to claim to be divine. The Roman emperor Caesar claimed to be divine, the Son of God. Roman coins carried the image of Caesar, along with an inscription claiming Caesar’s divinity. No devout Jew would carry one for this reason.
Those Jewish leaders who wished to trap and kill Jesus were hypocrites. Jesus knew their hypocrisy when they asked him the question:
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you
teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned
with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
This was a trap. Jesus knew it.
If he answered that the tax should not be paid to Caesar then Jesus could be accused of being a traitor, a political revolutionary. He could lose his life for such actions. If, however, he said “Yes”, that the tax should be paid, then he would lose favor with the Jewish people who were following him. The Pharisees planned this trap.
However, Jesus saw their hypocrisy.
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
The hypocrites had the coin on them.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
(Remember, the coin had the inscription that Caesar was divine)
At that he said to them,
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
They were trapped, not Jesus. They showed themselves to be hypocrites on many levels. First, every Jew knew that man was created in God’s image. We are stamped with the image of God. We bear God’s likeness. God’s own Son was human, also made in the image of God.
The coin, on the other hand, belonged not to God, but to the world, and carried an image of a false God. The coin with Caesar’s image must be paid to the world. The man stamped with God’s image must cling to God. Man belongs to God, not to Caesar, not to the world.
Jesus died, ultimately, because the world valued him less than Caesar, the false god. The world hated Jesus, because he would not worship false Gods. Jesus’ example was a threat to the false gods of the world. This is why Jesus was killed.
What is the lesson for us?
Take a look at our Dollar bill. Whose image is on it? It is George Washington, our first President, a clear representation of the Government of the United States. We pay our taxes to the US government with dollars bearing the likeness of George Washington. We give to Washington what belongs to Washington.
But what do we give to God? Do we give to God what belongs to God? Are we more just with Washington than we are with God?
We are God’s; we belong to Him. We were created by God in His image and likeness.
God created the world in six days. On the seventh day God rested and invited man to rest with Him; not to work, but to go to Mass and spend time with God.
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, a revelation from God that we still honor. The First Commandment was,
You shall not have other Gods.
Do not worship material wealth. Do not worship the world. God gave us six days to do what ever we need to do, but the Seventh Day, our Sunday, belongs to God. It is even called, The Lord’s Day. Do not miss Mass.
I just returned from my vacation to Rome. After many trips to Rome, I have found a new interest beyond the usual sights, like the Vatican and the Coliseum. My new interest is the original parishes of Rome. There are about 25 of them. Over the years I have been to most of them. Some of them were churches that St. Paul and St. Peter attended. One of them, St. Pudenziana was the home of a famous Roman family, Pudens. There St. Peter said his first Mass. In 2,000 years St. Pudenziana has never ceased to be a parish. The current basilica is built over the home of Pudens. I am amazed when I am in that Church that I am standing in a church that has never ceased to be a parish, where Mass has been celebrated continuously since the time of Peter and Paul. They do things there just like we do. They baptize and marry and celebrate the sacraments just like we do, but they have been doing it in an unbroken tradition for 2,000 years. Generation after generation have supported their parish with fund raising, parish ministries and lay participation from the very beginning.
This Gospel has been preached in that parish church for 2,000 years. God’s image is stamped on that parish, and they have rendered unto God what is God’s generation after generation. Support your parish church. We have good examples behind us. We stand on the shoulders of the earliest parishes.