Daily Reflection
October 17th, 1999
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
The Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
1 Thessolonians 1:1-5
Matthew 22:15-21

The jealous God almost shouts through the prophet Isaiah in today's first reading of the Eucharistic liturgy.  "I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God before Me."  The reading celebrates God's call of a foreign leader to come and help God's people, Israel.  Though Cyrus is a powerful force, the Prophet wants his readers and hearers to remember, just who is God of all.  "I am the Lord, there is no other."

The Gospel presents Jesus as reminding those who would trick Him that Caesar, the foreign power of the time, is also not God. "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."  Jesus turns the question around so that they see that everything belongs to God and by chance and force, Caesar has some limited authority which is to be recognized.  Jesus reminds his questioners then, that while paying taxes, remember that God's "image' and "inscription" is within and upon everything.  Caesar's is merely on these coins.  Pay the coin-tax and pay attention and homage to God and do not put them in tension with each other.  "There is no other."

In our homes and offices, wallets and purses, we carry images, pictures, love-notes and various reminders of significant people whose love for us makes us feel warm and wonderful.  Those are little sacraments and huge gifts which also remind us who God says we are.

The question remains though, how do we repay God for what belongs to God.  How do we love God and fulfill the first commandment?

It is dangerous to think and pray so that we can repay God in some tricky quid-pro-quo bartering.  We do not like to feel indebted or even given-to, if we can not repay in kind.  So does God want us to spend our lives and prayers shmoozing around so that God will be some how, repaid?  To "repay" God is itself a gift.  We allow God to love us, give to us, care for us and then received it all as poor, but grateful humans that we are.  Receiving, believing and not humanly achieving, is how we "repay God for what belongs to God."  We belong to God and we "repay" God by being the given-to, loved human beings God gave this earth at this time.

The Psalmist sings, "how can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me, the cup of salvation I will take and call on the Lord's name."  This is how we "repay" God, celebrating the Eucharist and celebrating our seeing God's image in ourselves, our brothers and sisters, our pictures and love-notes and all the ways God invites us to who we are in God's eyes.

Our prayer and spirit echoes the words of Paul writing his first letter to a community of believers in Jesus, "We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers..."  Gratitude is an attitude of being blest so as to be a blessing.  The image of God is upon and within us and living according to that image is God's gracious good work and our's as well.

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