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Tuesday – Ninth week – OT1
Readings: Tob 2:9-14; Mk 12:13-17.
1/ First Reading: RSV Tobit 2:9 On the same night I returned from burying him, and because I was defiled I slept by the wall of the courtyard, and my face was uncovered. 10 I did not know that there were sparrows on the wall and their fresh droppings fell into my open eyes and white films formed on my eyes. I went to physicians, but they did not help me. Ahikar, however, took care of me until he went to Elymais. 11 Then my wife Anna earned money at women’s work. 12 She used to send the product to the owners. Once when they paid her wages, they also gave her a kid; 13 and when she returned to me it began to bleat. So I said to her, “Where did you get the kid? It is not stolen, is it? Return it to the owners; for it is not right to eat what is stolen.” 14 And she said, “It was given to me as a gift in addition to my wages.” But I did not believe her, and told her to return it to the owners; and I blushed for her. Then she replied to me, “Where are your charities and your righteous deeds? You seem to know everything!”
2/ Gospel: RSV Mark 12:13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to entrap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
I. THEME: Return to others what belong to them.
To protect the common good and to live in harmony with others, each one of us needs to know our abilities and limitations; for example, to control citizens in a democratic nation, we have three branches: legislative, executive and judicatory. Each branch must know its own power and limitation to avoid stepping on other’s foot and to cause disorder. Similarly in human relationship with God, human beings need to know their abitities and limitations so that they should never try or interfere with God’s business.
Today readings give us some examples to recognize a discord when people exceed his capacities and limitations. In the first reading, Tobit exceeds his limitation when he condemned his wife of buying a goat from a thief. Anna, his wife, also exceeds her limitation when she questioned God’s providence and her husband’s piety. In the Gospel, some Pharisaic and Herodian people exceed their capacities and limitations when they posed a question to challenge and to set a trap for Jesus to fall in, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
1/ Reading I: It is not right to eat what is stolen.
1.1/ Why does a good person suffer? According to the previous readings, Tobit became blind after he fulfilled two divine commands: to feed the hungry and to bury the dead.
(1) Both the Hebraic and Oriental tradition believe “the high heaven has eyes;” which means whoever does good shall be rewarded; and whoever does bad, shall be punished. In reality, this sentence isn’t always true because many wicked persons are prosperous while many good persons are suffered, as in Job’s case or Tobit’s case today.
(2) This leads many people to question God’s existence or His providence. In today passage, Anna posed her question to Tobit: “Where are your charities and your righteous deeds? You seem to know everything!” If people can’t find the proper answer for this question, they shall be discouraged to believe in God and to do what He teaches them. They shall only act according to their reason—whatever they think it is right to do. We must wait until the Book’s conclusion to find out the true answer for this question.
1.2/ The misunderstanding between Tobit and Anna: The author described this conflict as follows: “Then my wife Anna earned money at women’s work. She used to send the product to the owners. Once when they paid her wages, they also gave her a kid.”
– Tobit questioned about the kid’s presence: “Where did you get the kid? It is not stolen, is it? Return it to the owners; for it is not right to eat what is stolen.”
– Anna said to her husband, “It was given to me as a gift in addition to my wages.”
– But Tobit didn’t believe her, and told her to return it to the owners.
Why didn’t Tobit believe in his wife? Kid is a precious animal in Palestine. Tobit thought his wife could buy it from a thief or a robber. Or Tobit didn’t want her to receive a gift from strangers because she might have to satisfy their asking for a favor later.
– Anna became angry because he stubbornly kept his opinion, so she rebuked him, “Where are your charities and your righteous deeds? You seem to know everything!”
Both Tobit and Anna were guilty in this event. Tobit sinned because he refused to believe in and wrongly judged his wife. Anna sinned because she condemned him of being “too pious”, so she wrongly judged him and doubted God’s providence.
2/ Gospel: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
2.1/ They set up a trap for Jesus to fall into: Mark’s account clearly mentioned the origin, the purpose and the way to trap Jesus: “They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”” The reason why they sent these two groups is for their political purposes.
(1) Pharisaic party: held that the Jews must only be governed by the Jews (Deut. 17:15). They opposed all foreign authorities and paying tax to the Romans. If Jesus says “Yes,” they shall tell people to oppose him because Jesus favored the foreign authority.
(2) Herodian party: held that the Jews should be compromised with the Romans so that both religion is practiced, and politics is safe. They illustrated many good things have come from the Roman Empire during the reigns of Herodian kings. Therefore, they tried to persuade the Jews: Let the Roman empire govern them as long as they don’t interfere with Judaism. If Jesus says “No,” they shall seize and hand him to Roman soldiers because he instigated people to oppose the Roman Empire.
Both parties were gathered to do the wicked thing which is to find a reason to seize and to kill the righteous. They thought that there is no way Jesus can escape their trap.
2.2/ Jesus’ answer: “Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” So, Jesus said to them, “Return to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.”
(1) Jesus differentiated politics from religion: Their purposes are different. The purpose of religion is to lead people to God; the purpose of politics is to provide human safety in this world. Three duties of a religious leader are: to teach people God’s teachings to avoid falsity; to celebrate sacraments to bestow God’s grace on people, and to govern people in religious sphere. Three duties of a political leader are: to protect safety for the nation, to provide material necessaries for people, and to protect the nation’s order.
(2) People have to pay taxes to protect the commonweal: Paying taxes is a duty of citizens so that the government has money to meet people’s needs. Besides, people must contribute their effort and talent to develop and to protect their society. Jesus advised Peter to pay tax for him. The apostles encouraged people to obey good leaders. If a government doesn’t care for public welfares, people can find a better one to care for them.
(3) People must return to God what belongs to Him: Jesus invited those who asked him and us to reflect about paying back to God what belongs to Him. Some followings can help us to reflect:
– We are created according to God’s image and likeness. This means we belong to Him. We have no right to do anything, but we must live according to the way God predestined so that we can live a happy life with Him in heaven. Whoever disobeys God in the name of freedom, shall be destroyed forever.
– All worldly authorities come from God; He bestows them on people to share in His governing. He gave Caesar authority over the Jews and he must answer God about his governing. Many times, people couldn’t understand God’s providence. Many Jews questioned why God gave the authority of governing the Jews to the Gentiles. Their history gave them the answer because they didn’t obey God through the prophets’ warnings.
When God gives someone the authority and that person doesn’t know how to properly use it, God will take away and give it to the one who knows how to use it. God used the Babylonian king as the stick to punish His people, and He broke that stick by giving the authority to Cyrus, the Persian king. Authorities in the world are always changing according to God’s providence. If God wants to take them away, no one can’t resist; if God wants to keep them in someone’s hands, no one can change them.
When God gives authority, people must use it for the commonweal; but people’s heart is hard to predict. When they didn’t have authority yet, they promise many things; but when they have it, they abuse their power and many times they are worse than the ones who were before them. May be this is the reason why authority must keep changing until the time we shall enter God’s kingdom and be governed by Christ, the righteous king. Only then we shall be at peace. As long as we live in the imperfect world, we must obey God’s will, not to oppose His providence. We believe that He still wisely governs the world.
– The right to possess material things doesn’t belong to Caesar or to anyone because God creates them for all people to use them. People are only stewards, not owners, and must render their accounts to God.
– Life belongs to God, time and talent are given by Him. People can’t destroy life from the conception until the end of their life. People can’t waste their time in useless entertainments but must use time to benefit themselves and others. Many wasted God’s given talents in drugs, gambling and immoral way of life. They must pay a hefty price for their abuse of freedom. In brief, people must agree that everything belong to God. People can only use them to benefit themselves and others and to widen God’s kingdom.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must know our ability and limitation so that we might know how to behave in our relationship with God in order to keep our faith and to harvest good results from doing God’s will.
– We should know our ability and limitation to behave with others, to protect the common good and to live in harmony with all.