October 18, 2020: Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
This week’s Gospel is a familiar passage to us. I find myself focusing on one aspect of it over others. Today, the words that led my heart in reflection are: Whose image is this and whose inscription? From the earliest pages of Scripture (Genesis 1:27), we read that we are made in the image and likeness of God. During my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Residency, I was reminded of this truth daily and that this truth applied not only to how I imaged God, but also how others imaged God back to me. A message had been taped to a mirror in the hospital’s Spiritual Care office. The message read “Behold the face of God.” It was accompanied by two statements in a frame mounted next to the mirror: As chaplains, we encounter patients, families, staff and visitors who are revealing God’s image to us; and, we are bearing the image of God to them. The former helped ground me in remembering that every interaction with another was a sacred one. And, the latter challenged me to examine how I was (or was not) imaging God in a variety of situations. Those statements, typed up and placed in a simple frame, served to remind me of the inscription placed in my heart that underscored my identity as a child of God and of that identity held in the heart of the other.
This week, may a glance in a mirror wherever we find one can serve to remind us of our mandate to authentically image God by engaging in actions of love, mercy and justice toward all others. Perhaps it can also remind us that those we encounter are bearing the inscription of God’s love in their hearts and blessing us by their presence with us.