29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 22, 2017
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus is confronted with an ugly reality in this gospel (Matthew 22:15-21): the Pharisees and the Herodians absolutely hated Jesus, and were trying to dig up anything they possibly could to use against him. When someone truly dislikes us enough, nothing we can say or do will be enough to please them, and this was the case with Jesus and these religious leaders. They had already made up their minds about him.
The essential problem was that each Jew was required to make a yearly tithe to support the operation of the temple, but the coins they needed to use were profane. Since Israel was an occupied country, the Romans introduced their own coins, complete with a false God, Caesar, whose image was minted on the front of the coin. Most religious Jews felt it was a sacrilege even to touch them, let alone make an offering of them to God. What is Jesus’ answer to this conundrum? What would you do?
We are also confronted with this challenge in our own lives. Since everything I have is actually a gift from God, what kind of offering can I make to him to thank him? Each of us is called to examine our lives closely to see in what way we are bearing fruit for God, and it’s not just about money!
For example, I can always offer a portion of my food to God by a simple act of thanksgiving before each meal (and maybe afterwards). I can give money or food to a local food bank or St. Vincent de Paul Society. When I drive and am alone in the car, I can tithe by offering some time for prayer. Driving is not a religious activity, but I can use some or all of this time to say part of a rosary before I reach for the radio.
Can I tithe my attitude? Whether in a good mood or a bad one, I can still find reasons to give thanks to God. Each act of gratitude is a small tithe of time and effort that God is pleased with.
Have I made an inventory of my income? What proportion is dedicated to God? If money is tight, do I still budget something in for charity and my church? I personally have always followed the idea of deciding in advance what percentage of my income will be dedicated to God and then distribute it among the charities God has called me to, including my church. God knows we have many competing demands on our time and money, these days more than ever. But as He once said to Saint Catherine of Siena, “Daughter, if you take care of my business, I will take care of yours.”