Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
March 8th, 2011
Barbara Dilly

Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Tuesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
354] Tobit 2:9-14
Psalm 112:1-2, 7-8, 9
Mark 12:13-17

When Jesus told the Pharisees and Herodians to “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” he was referring to their question regarding the lawfulness of paying the census tax to Caesar.  To do so was to demonstrate civil obedience to a political system they felt was repressive and ungodly.  And in many ways it was.  But I find it interesting that Jesus used the term “repay” in his answer.  For surely, the Pharisees and Herodians were benefitting from the Roman government in terms of an economic and legal system that provided for an orderly society that accorded  elites like them many privileges. 

In most state societies, the citizens pay for these benefits through taxes.   In democracies, citizens are involved in the process of deciding how much they will pay in taxes and what they will get for their tax dollars.   We all know how rancorous that discussion can be.  Nobody wants to pay more than they have to and no one wants anyone else to get something they don’t deserve.   And sometimes we even ask the question about whether it is our civil right, or even responsibility to resist paying certain taxes on grounds that they are unlawful.  Jesus recognized these political problems and the fact that they weren’t going away.   They are part of the things of this world that we have to work out with each other.

What Jesus wants us to see is that God also provides us with benefits and we need to repay God for them as well.   We read about them in the Psalm for today.  God gave us commandments as a gift to help us live our lives more justly and kindly and we need to repay God by honoring them.  God gives us much in terms of food and material plenty and we need to repay God by giving lavishly to the poor.  God gives us courage and strength and we should therefore repay God by firming up our trust in the Lord.  If I am not mistaken, repaying to God what belongs to God means we should give our whole lives to God.  

This brings me back to those political problems we have to work out with each other….ever since I started listening carefully to the social teachings of the Catholic Church and learning about Ignatian spirituality, I increasingly feel called to work through the political process to help the poor by removing injustices in the system.  For me, spiritual growth occurs as a result of trying to respond to the needs in our society by sharing God’s love and truth regarding the needs of others with more courage.  That means working to educate our youth to recognize the needs of the poor and the misunderstood in our society and to identify responses to those needs.  So today, I pray that even the writing of this reflection is a form of repayment for the strength I have been given to seek justice.  I write with a grateful heart that is firm and trusting in the Lord.  And I give thanks for all of you, my brothers and sisters in faith who repay God with your hearts and whole selves while also repaying Caesar.   
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