Sunday, October 22, 2017

Whose Image Is This? - Homily for the 29th Sunday in OT

"Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."

When I hear those words, I hear a moral exhortation: I am supposed to pay my taxes and, also, I am to tithe to God. I am to give to each what is just and due to them.

And that would be a fine homily, I think.

But I'm fascinated by how we got here in the first place. And my fascination isn't about the Pharisees setting traps for Jesus (although their brazenness is amazing). I'm fascinated by the question Jesus asks them.

He says to them: "Whose image is this?"

Now, Jesus knew the answer. He knows it's Caesar. So why is Jesus playing innocent?

Because Jesus is going to do something brilliant with this question. He is going to tie the image to the owner. So, in the case of the coin, Jesus asks: "Whose image is this?" They reply: "Caesar's." And Jesus says, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar."

Since the image of Caesar is on the coin, the coin belongs to Caesar.

Here's why this is brilliant-- and it comes with the second part: "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God."

The natural question is: "Well, what belongs to God?"

The answer is found in the question: "Whose image is this?" Or, another way of putting it: Is there anything with the image of God on it?

You know the answer. The thing that has the image of God on it is you.

If the coin with Caesar's image belongs to Caesar, then the person with God's image belongs to God. So this isn't simply about money-- that doesn't have God's image. It's about you. You have God's image.


So what does Jesus say? "Repay... to God what belongs to God." Notice: Jesus didn't say "Give to God...." He said, "Repay..."

There's a difference.

Giving is like charity-- something we do out of the goodness of our heart. I don't have to do it. But, I'm a nice guy, so ok, I'll give it to you.

But to repay. ... Repay implies that we owe. That we have borrowed. That we are in debt.

And that's the point.

You see, when Jesus holds up the coin and asks "Whose image is this," He is really holding up the Pharisees and asking about them: whose image is this, in whose image my dear Pharisees are you asking such questions?

And, by extension, to whom do you belong? Do you belong to me or do you belong to the world? And if you belong to me, do you not know the price I paid to purchase you?
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet 1:19)

It's hitting your heart, isn't it?-- because you know those questions aren't just about the Pharisees. They're about us. Whose image is this? To whom do you belong?


My grandfather had a penny collection and some of those pennies went back to the civil war. Those really old pennies were faded; the image was nearly worn off or covered in years of dirt and wear. I would hold up the coin and squint my eyes and I would ask: Whose image is this?

Let us be honest: such may be the case of our souls. Maybe we don't know whose image is in us. Or maybe we know, but it's been too caked over by sin and wear.

God forbid our Lord ever hold you up and wonder about whose you are!

So let's come to Him in confession. There, Jesus will clean us up and restore that faded image of God's glory-- like a shiny new penny. There will be no doubt about whose image we bear and about whose we are.

Let us turn to Him now in prayer and contrition; with our lives let us "Repay to God what belongs to God."

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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