Give God His due!
Readings: Is 45, 1.4-6; Ps 96, 1-3.4-5.7-8.9-10ac; 1 Thes 1, 1-5b; Mt 22, 15-21
The 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time A which is at the same time World Mission Sunday invites us to contemplate our mission as followers of Christ in the world. We owe the world our experience of God and His sovereignty. We are all called to participate in the mission of Christ in order to make the world a better place for all.
No other God!
The prophet Isaiah has helped us to appreciate afresh that God is sovereign. He entrusts human beings with authority so that they may make Him known. Human history tells us that many human beings especially those in power try to play God in the lives of others. It should be brought to our consciousness that power is meant to empower others and not to exploit them. Whoever doesn’t use power to serve doesn’t use it according to the purposes of God. Mary has a challenging word for the mighty of the world in her magnificat: “The Almighty casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly” (Lk 1, 52). We ought to remember that God’s almighty power is that of love. Whoever accepts the sovereignty of God’s love will not hunger for power, instead s/he will be a channel of love because s/he is empowered to serve.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus was confronted by a trap-question of the Pharisees. He knew the hypocrisy in their hearts. He helps them and us to understand this often misquoted piece of scripture. In fact, it is mostly quoted by those in civil power with the intention of silencing religious leaders who wish to guide people in questions of politics and economics. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God!” (Mt 22, 21). The coin they handed over to him bore the image of Caesar (a representative of the state) and thus, state authority is legitimate. Christians have the obligation and responsibility to contribute towards the development of their nations. All legitimate taxes must be paid! However, it is also the obligation of Christians to demand for accountability of the taxes they pay. Transparency in spending the tax-payers’ money must be guaranteed so that the common good which is bigger than the “Caesar” i.e. the one in power, is safeguarded.
To give God His due is to acknowledge that everything belongs to Him. Amazingly, even “Caesar” and his kingdom plus all the claimed rights belong to God. The coin that was handed over to Jesus bore the image of Caesar and thus, belonged to him. In the same way, every human person that was created in the image of God belongs to God and only to Him. This is the dignity of every human being that has to be respected everywhere. Please Caesar and all the systems you put into place must protect this unique dignity and allow God be God in the lives of those who belong to him! This mitigates any wild use of power and authority. To usurp the power of God means becoming a destructive factor in the lives of those entrusted to you. If you are a parent with power over your children, a teacher with power over your students/pupils, a manager over your colleagues etc. remember to use that power in order to serve and promote goodness!
Dignity and respect for all
As we celebrate the World Mission Sunday, may we be inspired by the latest encyclical of Pope Francis “fratelli tutti” (all are brothers and sisters). Apart from spelling out the message clearly that all human beings belong to God and that they all need God in their affairs (the primacy of God), the content of our mission in the world should be lived fraternity. We all bear the image of a loving Father. We are all brothers and sisters. This gives us a foundation for the inalienable dignity and respect that each one of us deserves. On mission in a world addicted to oppressive power, we want to proclaim and live values that will offer an alternative. Whereas the world will dictate individualism, let us proclaim and live solidarity. Whereas the worldly economy propagates scarcity of resources, let us proclaim the bounty of God where every human being has enough to lead a dignified life. This may sound as a dream, but it is me and you to make it a reality in my and your area of influence.