October 19, 2014

The Gospel Today

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:15-21 

The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion,
for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them,
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”

Reflection (Sem. Al Pestaño):

It is always best to side with the truth rather than to give in to the wrong actuations or accusations of people around us.  People may push us to our limits by the way they confront us.  It is at the very moment when we are about to reach our limit that we need to think and take the side of what is right and what is the way of God, that is to be wise and to choose the most loving and peaceable way.

One time, a girl in one of the parishes where I was assigned approached me and told me that she experienced a different kind of peace when her neighbor suddenly came to her and accused her of something she had no intention of doing in one of their gatherings in the neighborhood.  In her story, she said that her neighbor said a lot of things against her, even to the point of attacking her personally.  At that very moment, she was able to compose herself and instead of fighting back, she remained calm.  After a few minutes, her neighbor lay low and the girl took that opportunity to just say, “I am sorry, I never intended it that way.  Please forgive me if I have hurt you.  I will understand if you will not talk to me because of your anger, but please forgive me.”  That was the only thing that the girl said to her neighbor and they parted ways.  But according to the girl, that day she felt a profound peace because she was able to remain calm and did not do anything that could have probably caused a bigger trouble between them.  Instead of fighting back, she chose to be humble by apologizing to her neighbor even if she had not done anything.  The girl continued telling me that it was really never her intention to put her neighbor in a bad light in front of others.  She said that after that incident, she talked to other people who witnessed the event which her neighbor was referring to and asked if there was something wrong with what she did and they all that there was replied none.  “My conscience is clear,” according to her, “and I am thankful to God for not allowing me to retaliate, but instead He allowed me to experience such peace after my encounter with her.”

In our Gospel today, Jesus also had an encounter with the Pharisees who tried to entrap Him in speech regarding His view on the lawfulness of paying taxes.  The Pharisees were waiting for the response of Jesus.  Any wrong statement or action that Jesus would make in that instance could be used against him by the Pharisees.  But Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit replied in the most profound manner, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.”  If Jesus spoke against taxes, it would be sedition against Rome and Jesus could be subjected to legalprosecution.  The statement of Jesus had many meanings and, by saying it to the Pharisees, Jesus had left them an open ended answer.  Only the wise man could decipher the real meaning of Jesus’ answer but at least He did not able fall into the trap of the Pharisees.

When we are faced by a situation similar to that of the girl and that of Jesus, it is always good to think of what is the most loving thing to do.  We are asked today to always be on the side of what is good, to be on the side of God.  Even if it means losing face in front of other people, we need not fight back, but instead allow God to empower us – our mind and heart and to let the Holy Spirit take control of the situation.  The devil is always around us trying to entrap us with his tricks.  St. Peter in his first letter tells us, “Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” and you need to “resist him solid in your faith” (1Pet 5:8-9).  We will never go wrong whenever we allow God to take control of our lives.  Peace will come to us if we allow peace to reign in our lives.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

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