Giving to God What is God’s, 9th Tuesday (I), June 6, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Norbert
June 6, 2017
Tob 2:9-14, Ps 112, Mk 12:13-17


To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • In the Gospel, two archenemies, the strict Pharisees and the lax Herodians conspire to try to trap Jesus in his speech so that they could use it to turn the crowds and the Romans against him. They asked whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. It was not fundamentally a question of “taxation without representation” or things of the sort, but a question of potential idolatry. Because the Jews need to pay taxes with Roman currency, because Roman coins had the image of the emperor on it and because at this point in Roman practice people had given Caesar the title of Augustus, meaning he was divine, to pay taxes in Roman coins was considered like making sacrifices to pagan gods. If Jesus said, “Yes, it’s lawful,” the Pharisees could accuse him of blasphemy and idolatry and turn the Jewish faithful against him. If he said, “No, it’s not licit,” the Herodians could turn him into the Romans as someone trying to incite a tax revolt. But Jesus wasn’t getting to get caught in their trap. He asked for a coin that was used to provide the census tax and they provided him one, showing precisely that they carried the money and used it for ordinary business affairs, and hence that they were duplicitous in asking the question since they didn’t really consider using coins for such a purpose idolatrous. Then Jesus gave a response that is far more important than an issue of taxes. After querying whose image was on the coin, he said, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were already participating in Caesar’s system and could give him money but not worship — Jesus implied — because worship belongs to God. Jesus was implicitly answering their deeper question of idolatry, splitting “Caesar” from “Augustus” or “Divus,” but also at the same time addressing the issue of the contribution of the upkeep to the civic good.
  • Today we will focus on giving to God what belongs to God. We are made in God’s image and hence we are to give to God the things that are God’s: we’re to give him the time he gives us, the talents he gives us, the money he gives us, indeed the life and love he gives us. We’re to give not just something, but what’s worthy, which is all our mind, heart, soul and strength. We also are called to give others to God because they are made in his image as well: to give our loved ones to him in consecration at birth and baptism, to give our loved ones to him in suffering and death, to give our fellow family members and spiritual siblings to him when they’re transferred or have to move, in short, to entrust to him everything and everyone he has made.
  • Tobit, for all of his goodness, struggled to make this total. We saw yesterday that he had made sacrifices in Jerusalem when everyone was sacrificing in pagan temples. He didn’t eat forbidden foods when everyone else was doing so. He buried the dead even at the risk of his life. When he lost his eyesight by a freak means, as we see today, rather than cursing God,he thanked him, as we see in the prayer he made immediately afterward, “You are righteous, O Lord, and all your deeds are just; All your ways are mercy and truth.” We see that the loss of sight led to two great gifts. The first was that he couldn’t go personally, but needed to send his Son, Tobias, to collect a huge sum of money he had left in Media where he used to work, and it was there that Tobias would meet his wife. And second, he would be healed after four years in a true miracle of God’s presence. Then he would say: “Blessed be God, and praised be his great name, and blessed be all his holy angels. May his holy name be praised throughout all the ages, because it was he who scourged me, and it is he who has had mercy on me. Behold, I now see my son Tobiah!” But we see in the first reading that Tobit was very human insofar as he sought to choose the way he would exercise charity toward God and neighbor. He wasn’t yet giving to God the gift of his wife. When she told him she had received a bonus of a goat for work, he refused to believe her, and she reminded him of the limits he was imposing on his charity while distressed. This is a big point in the spiritual life. It’s often easy to give God huge sacrifices when we want to, but there are other parts he sometimes asks of us that we hesitate to give.  Often we are willing to do all types of sacrifices for God and for strangers and can sometimes neglect those neighbors literally closest to us among our family members. Tobit, even in his distrust for his wife, was zealous for the Lord’s commandments and so great was his desire not to profit from stolen goods; but his zeal for God didn’t extend to trusting his wife and in the generosity of others who gave more because of his situation. When Anna pointed out that his behavior wasn’t consistent with the character and virtues he was known for, she was calling him, essentially, to remember in whose image he was made and she was made and to start acting accordingly.
  • Today on the feast of St. Norbert, we can recall that early in life he was mostly concerned with money and was a high ranking financial officer. He sought to become a cleric fundamentally for the economic benefits that would come from benefices. But he had a deep conversion post ordination and then began to recognize God’s just place, that he was the giver of everything and that we need to give back. And he sought to give to God the things that are God’s and help others through the Norbertines he founded to do the same. As we come to Mass today on his feast day, we ask God for the grace to learn from him, from Tobit and his wife, how to give God thanks for all of his blessings, because even when we seem to be missing a blessing — for Tobit, his sight — God is in fact planning to give us every greater blessings still. On this day on which we remember in whose image we’ve been made and thank him for all his generosity in giving himself for us, we respond by trying to conform our whole life according to the image of that generosity, giving our body, blood, sweat, tears, heart, mind, soul and strength to the One who gave everything to save us.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 TB 2:9-14

On the night of Pentecost, after I had buried the dead,
I, Tobit, went into my courtyard
to sleep next to the courtyard wall.
My face was uncovered because of the heat.
I did not know there were birds perched on the wall above me,
till their warm droppings settled in my eyes, causing cataracts.
I went to see some doctors for a cure
but the more they anointed my eyes with various salves,
the worse the cataracts became,
until I could see no more.
For four years I was deprived of eyesight, and
all my kinsmen were grieved at my condition.
Ahiqar, however, took care of me for two years,
until he left for Elymais.At that time, my wife Anna worked for hire
at weaving cloth, the kind of work women do.
When she sent back the goods to their owners, they would pay her.
Late in winter on the seventh of Dystrus,
she finished the cloth and sent it back to the owners.
They paid her the full salary
and also gave her a young goat for the table.
On entering my house the goat began to bleat.I called to my wife and said: “Where did this goat come from?
Perhaps it was stolen! Give it back to its owners;
we have no right to eat stolen food!”
She said to me, “It was given to me as a bonus over and above my wages.”
Yet I would not believe her,
and told her to give it back to its owners.
I became very angry with her over this.
So she retorted: “Where are your charitable deeds now?
Where are your virtuous acts?
See! Your true character is finally showing itself!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 112:1-2, 7-8, 9

R. (see 7c) The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
An evil report he shall not fear;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear
till he looks down upon his foes.
R. The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Lavishly he gives to the poor;
his generosity shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
R. The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE EPH 1:17-18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to his call.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 12:13-17

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent
to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech.
They came and said to him,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.
You do not regard a person’s status
but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?
Should we pay or should we not pay?”
Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them,
“Why are you testing me?
Bring me a denarius to look at.”
They brought one to him and he said to them,
“Whose image and inscription is this?”
They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
They were utterly amazed at him.