Today we honor St Boniface, a martyr in the 8th century when the church was still fairly young and being a Christian still carried many risks. A man of consistent faith, St Boniface has been described as a “zealous servant of the Gospel.” Having converted many German tribes, he founded and restored many dioceses in middle Europe. St. Boniface was killed by pagans while preaching to the Frisians, German tribe. In the style of St. Paul, he wrote many letters to relatives and friends that revealed his fears, fatigue and never-ending trust in God. He was determined to serve Christ in spite of the risks to his very being. The following are excerpts of one of those letters:
His writings, his actions, his entire life was focused upon repaying what belongs to God – a central theme is today’s readings.
The theme of separating aspects of our lives and the “masters” of our lives is most evident in today’s Gospel. On the surface, this message may seem quite simple yet there are layers of complexity. Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. It is easier in some ways to determine what is Caesar’s but sometimes understanding the breadth of what is God’s can be a challenge. As a youngster hearing this gospel, I always thought we were talking about money and paying our way appropriately, that there is a separation of Church and state. Yet, the responsibility for each of us goes beyond such a separation of Church and state. No doubt, we pay taxes and other types of fees for governmental services. In turn we have protection and some basic human needs met.
What is it, then, that God gives to us and how do we pay for “those services and protection.” It was in reading and re-reading many times the story of Tobit and Psalm 112 that I came to the realization of what an awesome responsibility we have to “repay” what belongs to God. The responsorial psalm is explicit in the rewards for those who believe and fear the Lord. It leaves little doubt of the expectations for us all of the everlasting rewards. The challenge lies what we must do, “delight in His commands,” have a “firm, trusting heart,” “be steadfast,” and “lavishly give to the poor.” Are we willing to do this – not just sometimes but always? While we would probably have little hesitation in giving a positive response, the actually living of it is different indeed.
So . . . to give to God what is His, the simple truth is we must give our heart and soul, we must serve Him through others, and trust in him always. In the long run, the giving of the coin to Caesar is a far easier task but the differences in the outcomes are worlds apart. I read a bumper sticker once that asked that we come “work for the Lord” with the caveat that the “retirement benefits were out of this world . . .”
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