One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

June 04, 2006

For Tuesday of the Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 12:13-17

We meet the Herodians in the Gospel only today and one other time.
The Pharisees hated the Herodians for both patriotic and religious reasons.
Nonetheless, today the Pharisees stoop to team up with the Herodians because they hate Jesus even more.
The Herodians were King Herod’s political supporters.
The Romans— invaders and pagan idolaters— appointed the family of King Herod to rule over the territory of Galilee.
The Herodian political faction wanted and supported the international protection of Roman domination, though they would have preferred that the Romans allow Herod to govern all of Israel, instead of Galilee only.
The Pharisees, of course, preferred nothing to do with the Romans.
These two enemies, the Roman-friendly Herodians and the Roman-hating Pharisees, team up to trap Jesus between them.
They construct their greeting and their question carefully.
First they flatter, but with an outright lie.
They tell Jesus something they don’t really believe: that he teaches “the way of God in accordance with the truth.”
Then their carefully constructed question.
“Is it LAWFUL or not…?”
That’s the PHARISEE half of the question.
“Is it LAWFUL or not…?”
Does GOD’S LAW permit or not?
Then comes the HERODIAN half of the question.
Is it lawful or not TO PAY THE CENSUS TAX TO CAESAR?
If Jesus says that God’s law permits the paying of taxes to Caesar who claims to be a god, then the PHARISEES will drag him off to the Jewish religious authorities.
If he says it is against the laws of God to pay Caesar’s tax, then the HERODIANS will drag him off for inciting rebellion against the Romans.
That’s the trap.
It is the genius of Jesus to ask to see the coin, the denarius, that is the required payment for the tax.
Minted by Caesar’s government, the denarius bears Caesar’s face and title.
Jesus says to the Herodians and the Pharisees:
Give back to Caesar the face, the title and the coin that belong to Caesar—
and to God what belongs to God.

The Herodians and the Pharisees came as dishonest, temporary allies for the purpose of destroying Jesus.
Instead, he escapes their trap, destroys their alliance, and leaves the Herodians and the Pharisees trapped against each other by their own question.
So the last line of the Gospel today says it well, “They were utterly amazed at him.”
We know the denarius that bears the image and inscription of Caesar denarius is, but what belongs to God?
Today Jesus says, “Repay to God what belongs to God.”
WHAT bears the inscription and image of GOD?
The book of Genesis [1:26,27] tells us.
God said,
“Let us make man in our IMAGE,
after our likeness.”

So God created man in his own IMAGE.
In the IMAGE of God he created him.

“Repay to God what belongs to God.”
We belong to God.
In Baptism, God renews his image and likeness in us.
By anointing us with the Chrism of confirmation, God inscribes us with his Spirit.
In the Eucharist, God himself hands over the tax for sin, nailing himself to a cross Caesar’s government crafted.
The Eucharist that God gives us to eat and drink does not bear merely the image and inscription of God.
The Eucharist is God himself.
The Eucharist is the Son of God perfectly and totally paying himself back to the Father in our image and likeness— because we are unable to do it ourselves.
The Pharisees and Herodians were left UTTERLY AMAZED at him.
Are we?

That God Be Glorified in All


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