Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily. October 19, 2008. Ken Hughes SJ
Homily. October 2008.  Ken Hughes, SJ


One vice-presidential debate,

three presidential debates,

hundreds of caucuses and hundreds of town meetings! 

Finally, we are approaching the end of the long, dark, campaign tunnel  -- only two weeks and two days to daylight! 


Considering the huge issues which our nation faces: 

     wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,

     a category 5 economic crisis, 

     a trillion dollar debt which will burden our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, 

     inadequate health care and education for the poor,

     and an image throughout the world that has become laughable, 

you would think that we could demand and expect thoughtful, significant, and serious conversations.  But, so much of the campaigns, with the collusion of the media, has been about exploiting weaknesses, manipulating facts, and setting traps.


It was no different for Jesus. He faced a similar situation.  As crowds gathered about Him, Jesus was becoming a major threat to Rome and Jerusalem.  The Herodians, representing the power of Rome, and the Pharisees, representing the power of Jerusalem  joined together to set a trap. Hence, the question: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If He says, “Yes, then Jerusalem will turn against Him.  If He says, “No,” He becomes the exposed enemy of Rome.


But, It is never wise to set a trap for Jesus.  As on other occasions, the ones who lay the trap fall into it.  As soon as one of them, at Jesus’ request, reached into his pocket and took out the hateful coin, he condemned himself as one already compromised.  End of argument!


But, as frequently happens, Jesus moves the conversation to the level He is interested in.  He asks, “Whose image is on the coin?”  “Caesar’s”.  “O.K.  It belongs to him.  Let him have it.”    Jesus’ question implies another question:  “Whose image is on your soul?”  “God’s image.”  Yes, we are made to the image and likeness of God.  “O.K.  Then, your soul belongs to God.  Let Him have it!”  In other words, are you as careful about giving your soul to God as you are about money and the things which money can buy?? 


For me, these two images: the image of Caesar on coins and the image of God on our souls  symbolize the two levels on which we live our lives.  How much time and energy go into living on a natural, unreflective, ordinary level where God is there but at a distance?  How much time and energy go into living at a spiritual, reflective, graced level where God is frequently in my consciousness?


Let me be more concrete?  Is Sunday morning the only time I pay attention to God or am I trying to remember God throughout the week and at various times of each day?

At the end of a day, am I just aware of what I have done and not done this day, and then think about what I have to do the next day, or do I take time to see where God has been in my day?  Do I notice the gifts He has given me?

When I walk along, do  I notice and look at the beauty of these Autumn days (or is my head bent down over my cell phone?)  

Do I appreciate and say, “Thank you,” to family members and friends who nourish my life (or, do I just take them for granted?)

The “T” is running ads advocating  basic acts of civility. (Such as: letting people out before entering,  giving a seat to the elderly, not using cell phones.) Are my acts just about being civil, (which is fine!) or because, on a deeper level, I am mindful that the image of God in each person, -- that’s why I reverence the other?

I sense a difference in myself between doing work from a sense of duty or obligation and doing work as a labor of love.

Though I can’t always explain it,  I feel a different energy coming from ego and self-concern than an energy that flows from a deeper source, an energy more in tune with the image of God within..   

Too much busyness keeps us operating on the upper, more superficial, level; working more reflectively comes from below.


The Gospel today is not about taxes, is not about separating the civil and religious realms;  it is about choosing to live more deliberately out of the one image of God within than out of the multiple images of the world from without.  It is much easier to live the latter than the former, but, in the long run, that is the route to weariness  depression, meaninglessness.  Choosing to live from our God-image within, is more difficult, but also more meaningful, life-giving, and joyful.


I think this is what St. Paul is getting at today when he gives thanks to God for what he sees in the people of Thessaly:  the work of faith, the labor of love, and endurance in hope.  “For,” he concludes, “our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”  These words which St. Paul spoke so joyfully to the people of Thessaly, I now say to you, people of St. Mary of the Angels.   



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