BOTW - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 18, 2020
Who is this Jesus? Why should I follow Him? If I want to follow Him, how do I do that? How do I discern right from wrong? Where must I or where should I put my loyalties? We might say the Pharisees and Herodians in our Gospel this week are the first students of Christology…the study of the anointed one. This week’s Gospel helps us answer those questions. Those questions are as relevant today as they were for the Pharisees and Herodians, and as they were for the early Church. There are answers to those questions that should bring us constant peace.
Jesus is once again challenged to find out where His loyalties reside. Once again it is the Pharisees who are challenging Him but this time they are joined by the Herodians. The Herodians were a Jewish sect and political group who followed King Herod. Like the Pharisees, they wanted political independence for the Jewish people, unlike the Pharisees, the Herodians wanted Herod on the throne while the Pharisees wanted to restore the kingdom of David. The Herodians were more closely aligned with the Sadducees, who were high priests, aristocrats, and merchants that tended to have better relations with the Romans.
The trickery of the Pharisees and Herodians is obvious – they were looking to trick Jesus into expressing His loyalty to the Romans or His clear rejection of the Romans by questioning the poll tax. The poll tax simply went into the coffers of the Romans, as opposed to the customs taxes that were paid in return for something like a permit to transport goods. So what is it going to be Jesus? Side with the Romans and therefore averse to the Jews; or side against the Romans and therefore He should be dealt with as a subversive criminal.
The reply Jesus give is interesting in what He does and does not say. The Herodians begin their questioning with flattery “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man…”. Jesus does not counter their flattery because it is true. It is interesting that Jesus asks for the coin and is given one, a denarius, a coin with the image of Caesar on it…there…in the temple. The Romans had allowed the Jews to make their own coins out of copper that did not have an image of Caesar, the fact that these Jews had a denarius again reveals their trickery.
Jesus answers their question by clearly delineating responsibility to the Romans and to God. The coin has the image of Caesar on it, so it must be Caesar’s, and therefore give it back to Caesar. And Jesus reminds them that what they have is a gift from God, it is not theirs but rather Gods, so give God what desires from them.
So who is this Jesus? The answer is exciting! It is a question the Jews tried to answer continuously through the Gospels. It is a question the early Church tried to answer. It is a question that we asks ourselves as we grow in our faith. The short answer is Jesus is 100% God and 100% man…but wait…that is 200%. It is a question with which the early Church in particular really struggled. Several heresies arose that were the result of man trying to put man’s definition of who he should be on Jesus, rather than accepting Jesus for who He really is.
The answer to who Jesus is does not rest only in defining Him as fully divine and fully man, but in understanding what He teaches. In the course of dating, two people try to define who each other is. When someone says “So, tell me about yourself.”, they do not mean to hear a physical description of us, they want to know what insights we have on the world, how we act, what is important to us.
Answering the question “Who is this Jesus?” leads us to discipleship. Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one. Understanding Him as the anointed one, draws us to an understanding of His teachings. Because He is our Lord, we can trust his teachings. And what is His teaching? That is revealed in the two greatest commandments: love God with all that you are and love your neighbor.
Our goal as disciples should be to continually understand what “love” means and how that fits into our lives. Love is not letting people do anything they want to do that makes them happy…that is giving up. Love, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains, is continually seeking the good of the other person, and helping them work toward that good. Sometimes love means advising someone they are making a bad decision, allowing someone to make that bad mistake, but then being there to help them recover from their mistake.
That of course leads to understanding what “good” means. To know the “good” we need to understand the Truth…God’s Truth, not man’s truth.
Theme in Our Life
What is important to you? What makes you angry? GK Chesterton, the early 20th century philosopher and theologian, explains that what makes us angry is generally where our priorities are set. Is possessing the coin your priority, or the way God wants you to use the coin your priority?
To understand who Jesus is leads us to a discipleship where we clearly differentiate between the things of this world, and the things of eternity. What we have in this world is 100% on loan to us, it is all God’s. God gives us the things, circumstances, and people in our lives to help us fulfill His will. The healthy understanding of that should bring us peace. All the things in our lives will pass – they will break, or fall apart, or deteriorate, or be spent. Question becomes, what do we do with them while we have them? Is it what Jesus wants us to do?
What is lasting is God’s love for us. What is lasting is our eternity. How we spend that eternity depends on what we do with the gifts God has given us. How do we treat others? In today’s environment and society, we have gravitated toward finding importance in always being right – pointing our finger at the other person and not only declaring them wrong but explaining what a horrible person they are. Are we treating others reflective of the fact that we want them to spend eternity with us? We should be.
Discipleship means we continually try to understand how God wants us to use His gifts. Gaining that understanding requires two things: 1) We recognize that God is God, and we are not; and 2) We spend time with God in prayer and study of our faith.
Recognizing the God is God, and we are not should bring us tremendous peace. Lookee there! I do not need to be perfect and I am allowed to make mistakes – and when I ask, God will forgive me!
Preparing for Sunday
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word, consider the following:
What is it in your life that you think you can’t live without? Is it God’s or is it yours?
What makes you angry? Is it worth it?
Are you treating people who do not think the same as you, as children of God who are loved by God just as much as He loves you?