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Selecting the Way of Jesus


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A reflection on the scripture readings for Sunday, August 22, 2023 — the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I want to reflect on a simple quote from St. Augustine of Hippo regarding today’s gospel reading:

“We are God’s money. But we are like coins that have wandered away from the treasury. What was once stamped upon us has been worn down by our wandering. The One who restamps his image upon us is the One who first formed us. He himself seeks his own coin, as Caesar sought his coin. It is in this sense that he says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” to Caesar his coins, to God your very selves.”

He goes on to say, “God is the master of the mint who has come to strike the coins afresh … by pardoning sins with grace; and he will show you that God is looking for his image.”

We’ve heard a thousand homilies recounting the trap laid out for Jesus in today’s gospel — when asked if the Roman census tax is lawful, he can either say yes and open himself up to accusations of idolatry and disloyalty or say no and make an enemy of Rome. It is a false choice that echoes down the centuries, guiding every Catholic who has ever felt trapped by the complexities of politics.

The Pharisees want Jesus to pick a side — Rome or Jerusalem, Caesar or Herod, safety or nationalism, practicality or idealism.

Jesus refuses to play their game.

He instead responds to the trap with a complex, nuanced, and thoughtful answer. He reminds us that there is always a third way, the way of Christ. The way of Christ isn’t always as simple as the clear-cut, black-and-white options presented by the Pharisees. It requires discipline and discernment. At times, it requires us as Catholics to make choices that please no one, putting us outside of Rome and Jerusalem and requiring us to choose neither practicality nor idealism.

Do not reduce yourself to the either/or the world attempts to force upon you. Choose the nuanced and disciplined way of Christ. Be comfortable pleasing no one but him.

The world offers you choices that are stamped with the images of men and worth finite sums. You are made in the image of the invisible God, and your value is infinite. Let Caesar keep his false choices, render yourself unto God, and choose the way of Christ.


Image: The Tribute Money, By Peter Paul Rubens – https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/rubens-had-it-all–fame-fortune-good-looks-but-you-cant-hate-him/2019/04/09/a689fd1c-57af-11e9-8ef3-fbd41a2ce4d5_story.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14823625

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Fr. Alex Roche

Fr. Alex Roche is the pastor of St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Laflin, Pennsylvania and serves as the director of vocations for the Diocese of Scranton. Ordained in 2012, he has a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Lateran University. He went to college with a girl who went to high school with the niece of the guy who played Al in Quantum Leap.

You can listen to his podcast at www.wadicherith.com.

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