|Memorial of Saint Boniface
Psalms 112:1-2, 7-8, 9
Recently my husband and I rented the movie, "Sunshine," which is a story of a Jewish family in Europe, over four generations, during the 20th century. It followed the generations as they struggled with their identities as Jews in a time and culture of persecution that increasingly raised the dilemmas of self-identity and assimilation. I was caught up in the struggles of what I might do and choose in similar situations. When does one choose to assimilate into the culture in order to survive and/or succeed? When does one claim one's identity, regardless of the consequences?
Today's psalmist proclaims: "The heart of the just person is secure, trusting in God. Happy the person who fears God and delights in God's commands...An evil report shall not be feared; the person's heart is firm, trusting in God. Lavishly the person gives to the poor; their generosity shall endure forever." Not a bad formula if one wants a checklist of how to be in tune with God....
However, in real life, this formula may not be as easy to discern in our day to day lives. Are we really trusting in God or furthering our own sense of selves? When are we listening to the spirit of God within and when are we overly influenced by the culture's messages of what will make us happy and secure?
Mark's gospel passage raises the question in another way with the Pharisees and Herodians question: "Is it lawful to pay the tax to the emperor or not? Are we to pay or not to pay?" (Can we really be true to God if we are following the laws of the land?) Jesus' answer is succinct: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but give to God what is God's." The scripture reports of the questioners: "Their amazement at him knew no bounds."
At first glance, Jesus' answer seems very clear, very concise. But wait - how and when does one decide what is God's and what is Caesar's'? Are our recent national public policy choices 'of God' or self-serving? How do we discern such questions?
Perhaps a guide is offered in the Tobit passage today. Tobit question's his wife's word regarding a goat that has been given to them. Regardless of Anna's explanation, Tobit does not believe Anna and demands that she return the goat. Anna finally retorts: "Where are your charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself!"
A possible guide in our discernment of where we are following God
in our lives or where we are succumbing to our clouded vision of authority
or 'being right' - (and serving our own needs?) - may lie in how
we interact day to day with those closest to us - our family, our friends,
and our colleagues. Are we willing to trust in their insights as
well as in our own? Can we invite them into our discernment of God's
presence in our lives? And, then, do we go to a quiet place to put
the pieces together, allowing and inviting God's spirit to guide us in
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