29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 19th 2014
Is 45:1,4-6; 1Thes 1:1-5; Mt 22:15-21
Recognizing the divine image
“Whose image is this and whose inscription?
This last week we heard the tragic story of the murder of a transgendered young man, Jeffery “Jennifer” Laude, in Olongapo, Philippines. The prime suspect in this murder is a US marine officer, Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, who allegedly met the deceased in a disco bar and was reportedly in his company shortly before the murder was committed. Our hearts go out in condolence and support to the family of the deceased at this time and we pray for the victim. We also pray that whoever is responsible for his death experience a true conversion of heart and be brought to face justice.
This tragedy also reminds us of the necessity of recognizing and revering the image of God present in all of creation, beginning with every human person. Recognizing this divine image in all created things saves us from the false ideology that is glaringly evident in this very sad incident. The falsity of this ideology lies in the thinking that we own our bodies or other persons. The transgendered person felt or thought of his body as his own property, something that he can alter and modify in any way that it pleases him to suit his lifestyle. To him, the body can be altered and used for whatever purpose that suits him, be it for pleasure, fame, financial gain, etc. On the other hand, the murderer thinks that he or she has the right to take the life of another person, reducing the murdered one to a mere property to be owned and disposed at will. What both parties painfully failed to realize is that all things and all persons belong to God and to God alone. Human history repeatedly shows us that disasters or tragedies happen when we ignore the fact that God owns all things and every single person.
How did Jesus think of His own body? Jesus Christ upon entering this world said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me” (Heb 10:5) Jesus saw in the sinless body that He received from the most Blessed Virgin Mary a gift prepared for Him by the Father. He saw and acknowledged the divine image in His body and the belonging of this body to the Father. How did He respond to this gift of His body? He did not do His will but the will of the Father with this body that He received: “Behold I have come to do your will, O God.”(Heb 10:7) With His lips, Jesus spoke words of healing and hope, words that were powerful enough to raise the dead and drive out demons. With His hands, He cleansed lepers and fed thousands. With His feet, He went to places of darkness and bondage to set many free. At every moment of His life, Jesus acted with the consciousness of the divine image present in Himself and in all persons and things.
How did Jesus treat others? He saw in us more than anyone else the image of the Godhead and He treated us exactly the way that the Father willed that we be treated. He saw in us the Father’s gift to Him: “They are your gift to me.” (Jn 17:6) In Jesus’ actions, we see how the Father desires us to be treated: “Whoever sees me (Christ), sees Him who sent me.” (Jn 14:9) At the end of His life, He took that same body to the Cross for us all for our salvation and for the glory of the Father. By acting with the conviction that all things and all persons belong to God, Jesus Christ brought nothing but divine graces and blessings to us.
In today’s Gospel Jesus responds to the question about the rightness of paying taxes to Caesar by asking the question about the census coin, “Whose image and whose inscription is this?” It is only when this question has been correctly answered by the Pharisees and Herodians that they can “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” This divine image is evident in all created things, beginning with us human beings created in His own image and likeness: “The Lord made us, we belong to Him.”(Ps 100) Having recognized His divine image in all things, we thus have the grave responsibility and impetus to offer all things back to God.
Like Jesus Christ and with Him, we offer all things back to God when we use all things the way that God wants us to use them and treat others the way that God desires us to treat them. Jesus gave His body back to God as a sacrifice for us on the Cross. He offered us to the Father by the loving us to the death of the Cross. By so doing, Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to give back to God all that we have and all that we are.
As we celebrate World Mission Sunday today, we must be reminded that the basis and motive for our mission in the world today as Christians is the fact that God, who owns all people and all things, desires to act in us and through us so as to bring all things under the headship of Jesus Christ. Though it is through the free cooperation of all who have been chosen and called that God wills to effect universal salvation, God will never force us to give Him what is His by right. But what we give to God freely is what He will use to act in our world today.
The missionary Saint Paul writes in the Second Reading to commend the Thessalonian Christians for their “work of faith, labour of love, and endurance of hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Such an exemplary testament of faith, hope and love on the part of the Christians cannot come from the mere words of St. Paul. On the contrary, God used the words of the Apostle to touch, convert and strengthen the hearts of the believers: “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” Mission is not so much what we do but what we let God do in us and through us by the means of all that we freely offer to Him. If God can use the pagan Persian king Cyrus as His “anointed,” to overcome Babylon, liberate the exiled Jews, and initiate the reconstruction of their homeland and temple though Cyrus did not know God, how much more will God do in our world today through us and in us who are His chosen ones endowed with His Spirit? It all depends on our ability and readiness to recognize and revere His image in all things and to offer all to Him, using them as He wills alone.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, depending on how we see created things, we have a choice to make. We can let God act in us and through us in this world by offering ourselves and all to Him. We can also choose to bring disaster and tragedy on ourselves by pretending to be the absolute owners of any created things like our bodies, time, goods, talents, persons, etc. In Jesus Christ, who is the perfect image of the Father, the divine image in us that was disfigured by sin has been restored and is on the path of being perfected. In Jesus Christ too, we too better recognize and revere this image in others and treat them as God wills that they be treated. Jesus Christ has freed us so that we too may give to God all that belongs to God through Jesus Christ Himself.
By the grace of God alone, we can choose to follow the footsteps of Mary. Through the angel Gabriel, God invited her to let Him do great things in this world by becoming one like us. Like her divine Son, Mary recognized God’s image in her person and in all things and she responded with a complete gift of herself and all things to God, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it be done to me according to thy word.” What she gave to God is what God has used to save all of mankind. What she gave to God is what we still encounter today in this Eucharistic celebration – the precious Body and Blood of Christ.
This same God-man desires to act in our world through us and in us today like He did through Mary. What we freely offer to Him is what He will use to bring graces and blessings to all of us. What we pretend is ours to be used as we like will only bring us tragedy and disaster.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!