“Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Every Sunday at the offering we say, “All things come of Thee, O Lord; and from Thine own have we given Thee.” So what then belongs to Caesar? We are wholly God’s and all of our blessings, spiritual and material, are gifts from God. Having just finished up with our churches stewardship campaign, this subject has been on my mind. Money and spirituality don’t seem to be in any way connected to me. Of course, I’d love to be able to pledge much more than I can afford because I love the church and I want to support it, but I’ve always felt that giving to support the church is more practical than spiritual. As for Caesar, the government collects their due and since Jesus tells us to pay our taxes there is no easy out. In any case, I’d rather worship with my parish family than in a prison chapel.
‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’
We often see the words, “What would Jesus Do?” If we thought about what Jesus would do we would come up with a lot of great answers to real life dilemmas. Should I give to the poor? Should I forgive my friend who has disappointed me? If we all did what Jesus would do, the world would be a kinder, more forgiving and just place. We would also be be showing our respect for the Beloved Son that God sent to save us.
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” They discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
When I was younger I had a bumper sticker on my car that said, “Question Authority.” I still believe that it is important for us all to question the authority of government and all people in positions of power. The only authority I don’t feel the need to question is the authority of God. The priests and scribes didn’t know Jesus as Lord, and Jesus had more work to do among the people before revealing to the world the source of his authority.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Advent is a time of waiting and wonder. During Advent we wait and prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas like the bridesmaids waited for the banquet. This Advent let us prepare for the birth of our Lord by fulfilling the commandment to love our neighbor. Let us think about when Christ said, “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was sick and you visited me.” Let us be aware of the stranger in need or in trouble and treat them with love and hospitality and generosity. Let us keep our lamps lit and prepare for the coming of The Lord.
“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”
Jesus tells us here that we need to pay attention. We need to watch and listen and look for God in our lives. We can miss what we’re not looking for and give up opportunities for peace. We can miss out on the great joy that God wants us all to experience when we fail to recognize the divine in our world and in the people around us.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
At this time of year we look back and contemplate all the things for which we are are grateful. We also look forward, and this year presents particular challenges for many of us. The most important thing is for us to not lose heart. We must keep looking forward in faith and be renewed. We must face each challenge knowing that God is with us. In Jesus Christ we will achieve eternal glory no matter what troubles we encounter day by day.
You have clothed me and fed me and comforted me.
You have known me entirely and loved me.
You have loved me when I have hated myself.
You have loved me when I have hated you.
You have touched my hardened heart and melted it.
You have visited me when I was alone.
You have dried my tears.
You have turned my rage into calm.
You have helped me to endure what I thought I could not bear.
You have shown me love through the love of others.
You have taught me to love.
You have opened my heart to sorrow.
You have opened my heart to joy.
You have made me glad that I can cry.
You have made me grateful for laughter.
You have given me life.
For all of this I am grateful.
I give you praise. I give you thanks.
“Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
Jesus came to seek out and to save the lost. Sometimes we don’t feel that we deserve to be sought out and saved. If we think of ourselves as only the sum of our faults we convince ourselves that we aren’t worthy of salvation. Those are the times that we feel most lost and at those times we need to be reminded that God so loves us that he sent Jesus into the world to save us. All we have to do is let ourselves be found.
Wooden Crucifx from the Collection of the Cloisters
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
The meaning of what Jesus said to the twelve about his impending death and resurrection was hidden from them. There are times when all of us feel like the truth is is hidden from us. There is much that we don’t know or can’t understand and that is where faith comes in. We can allow doubt to rob us of our peace of mind or we can choose to live in faith.
“What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”
It’s easy to forget that God is in control. We spend much of our lives making decisions and pretending that we’re the ultimate authority. If we’re lucky we know what we’re doing and we make good choices, but in the end our lives are in God’s hands and there is something comforting in that. We need to take responsibility for our actions but the outcomes are not always up to us.