"Give to God the things that are God's." [Mt. 22:21] What a powerful statement! Good morning everyone! I pray to the Lord Jesus that by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual meaning of today's readings shall enrich all of you as I have been enriched through them.
Beginning with the First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, [Is.
45:1, 4-6] the Lord God addressed His anointed one. As spiritual
children of God, having been anointed during the Sacrament of
Baptism, we can all welcome this message as if it was intended for
each and everyone of us.
During this reading, we heard the Lord God speaking of His
almightiness. By His infinite power, nations had been subdued and
kings stripped of their robes. Doors had been opened for His
anointed one and the gates shall not be closed. This parallels
what the Lord God has done for each and every one of us through the
anointment of our Baptism. He gave us all a new creation that He
guards jealously, [Jas. 4:5] protecting it against the claws of
Satan. Through our Baptism, He has opened the doors to Heaven for
us to enter, promising never to close them. The promise of the New
Covenant is forever. God, unchanging in His nature and promises,
shall never take away from us the promise of salvation. If we fall
short of persevering in our living faith that leads towards
salvation, it will be because of our own free will.
The Lord God proceeded to say that for the sake of those He loved,
His servant Jacob and Israel His chosen, He calls us by our names.
Though we do not know Him, He surnames us. How true it is that we
know very little about God the Father. For His formless nature
mystifies our human perception. What we do know of Him, it is
through Jesus Christ who "is the image of the invisible God, the
firstborn of all creation." [Col. 1:15] Even though we do not know
God as we should know Him, He still calls us by our individual
surnames, each and everyone of us being known to Him. It is just
awesome to think that God remembers each and everyone of our names,
knowing us personally.
Then, the Lord God proceeded to say that He was the Lord. There
is no other god beside Him. These words echo the words of the
First Commandment. "I am the Lord your God... you shall have no
other gods before me." [Ex. 20:2-3] We belong to Him and He wants
Next, the Lord God said that although we did not know Him, He arms
us. Spiritually speaking, He gives us the spiritual weapons that
we need to defeat the enemy. To ensure that we would walk in the
light, He gave us our salvation through Christ. He gave us the
Holy Catholic Church to continue the apostolic work of Jesus. He
gave us the Sacrament of Baptism so we may be born again through
faith in Christ, water and the Spirit. He gave us the Sacrament of
Reconciliation so we may maintain our righteousness in His sight.
He gave us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist so we may enjoy the
Living Bread that leads us to the Kingdom of God. And the list
continues... How numerous are His Divine blessings for each and
every one of us!
Having reminded us of our blessings, the Lord repeats once more
that He is the Lord and that there is no other. No one can do
what He has done. No one can even come near doing all what He has
done for each and everyone of us. Praise be His Most Holy
Moving on to the Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to
the Thessalonians, [1 Thess. 1:1-5] we learn more about the
greatness of God. The reading began by identifying who the writer
was. Besides Paul, there was Silas. Silas [Acts 15:22] was one of
the leaders of the Jerusalem community who was sent to Antioch
after the Council of Jerusalem. [1 Pet. 5:12] Timothy was the son
of a Jewish mother and Greek Father. He joined Paul and Silvanus
at Lystra [Acts 16:1-3] and helped Paul in his ministry for a great
period of time.
The Letter to the Thessalonians was addressed to the Church as
a whole. By uniting God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in
the introduction of the Letter, Paul was confirming the Divinity of
Christ. Applying his regular greeting and blessing, [2 Thess. 1:2]
Paul prayed that grace and peace would be with the Thessalonians.
Saint Paul then proceeded to give thanks to God in prayer for all
the blessings that the Thessalonians had received. He mentioned
their work of faith, their labour of love and their steadfastness
of hope in Jesus Christ. The labour of love is a reflection of
active charity. As such, the prayer of thanksgiving to God
embraces the virtues of faith, hope and charity that had been
bestowed upon the Thessalonians.
Continuing with his Letter, Paul emphasized that it was not just
his words that transformed the Thessalonians, but the "power"
of the Holy Spirit. Giving credit where it rightfully belongs,
Paul made it clear that it was the Holy Spirit who was responsible
for all the spiritual manifestations of righteousness.
Paul is a holy example to all of us. He shined as a saintly model
who always acknowledged that there is only One God and we should
always remember that.
Continuing to the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 22:15-21] our attention
is drawn towards the few who did not shine very much, if at all, in
the eyes of God. Our attention is drawn to the Pharisees who were
siding with the Herodians to trap Jesus with a question. Their
intent was to have Jesus side with either the Pharisees or the
Zealots. Consequently, this would cause some friction with one of
You see, the Herodians supported Herod's succession of rulers.
They were extremely loyal to Rome. The Zealots rejected the fact
that they were subjected to a foreign power. They wanted the
Romans out of their lives. The Pharisees believed as the Zealots
but they did not believe in using force to obtain independence.
Any answer to the question that was given to Jesus was bound to
cause friction with either one of the parties. But Jesus perceived
Jesus was asked, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?"
Jesus asked for a coin and said, "Whose head is this, and whose
title?" The New Testament translation of the Latin Vulgate says,
"Whose image and inscription is this?" [Mt. 22:20] They answered,
"The emperor's." So Jesus told them to give therefore to the
emperor the things that belong to the emperor and to God the things
that are God's.
To fully understand this tricky question, it is necessary to know
and understand what related to the minting of Roman coins. The
right to mint a coin proved sovereignty. The Roman Government
minted their own coins and jealously guarded this sovereignty,
making it an act of rebellion to mint any coins other than under
the Roman authority. As such, since the coins were minted by the
Roman Empire, they belonged to its Government.
To condemn the paying of taxes would have meant to disagree with
the occupancy of the Romans. To agree to pay taxes would have
meant to support their occupancy of the land.
Now, one may wonder how this Bible passage relates to the other two
readings. It does so through the word "image." Give to God the
things that are God's.
Earlier, I spoke of all the blessings that God has given each and
every one of us. In Roman 8:29, we learn that "those whom God
foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His
Son, in order that He might be the firstborn within a large
family." In 1 Cor. 15:49, we learn that "just as we have borne the
image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of
Heaven." 2 Cor. 3:18 tells us, "And all of us, with unveiled
faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a
mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree
of glory to another." And Col. 3:10 tells us, "clothed yourselves
with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according
to the image of its creator."
As the Book of Genesis teaches us, man was created in the image of
God. Having lost that original image through the disobedience of
Adam, God placed in motion a progressive Divine Plan to once more
transform us into His glorious image. That is why God gave us so
many gifts and blessings. That is why Christ died for us. That is
why we are being transformed into the image of Christ through
faith, hope and charity.
Belonging to God, we are called to become in His image. We are
called to actively maintain our gifts by living our faith in
Christ. We are called to give to God what belongs to God so it
will not be said, "In their case the god of this world has blinded
them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God." [2 Cor. 4:4]
Today's message my brothers and sisters is, let us appreciate what
God has given us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, let us preserve
our gifts and blessings with all our souls, our minds, our spirits,
our hearts and our strength. In the Most Holy Name of Jesus, let
us keep these gifts stainless so that one day, when we will appear
before the Lord God, we will proudly give Him back what He gave us.
Then, we will rightfully inherit the assurance of our salvation.