THE IMAGE OF GOD ENGRAVED ON YOU – 22 October 2017, 29TH Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Is 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thes 1:1-5B; Mt 22:15-21
Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications

Every Roman coin had images of the emperor. Graven images amount to idolatry and are prohibited by Jewish law. Using the money of Tiberius meant idolatry. Jesus is aware of the pitfall the Pharisees had laid for him. He does not avoid the question. As he usually does, he skillfully leads the interlocutors to the root of the problem.

He wants them first to show him the money. They naively reach out under the tunic where they usually hide the money and they present it to him. They do not realize that Jesus is playing a trick on them as well: first, he asks for the money. It means that he does not possess it (for he does not even have a stone on which to lay his head – Mt 8:20), and if they pull it out, it means that they use it without any problem. They receive it for their services, and with it, they buy the products at the market. What’s more, the dispute takes place in the precincts of the temple (Mt 21:23), and in the holy place, and they do not bother to profane it by showing that image.

After looking at the money Jesus asks, “Whose image is this?” “Caesar’s,” they say. “So—he concludes—give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s” (v. 21).

The first message is: it is a moral and civil duty to contribute to the common good by taxes. There is no reason that justifies tax evasion or theft of state assets. Whatever the policy and economic choice of the government, the disciple of Christ is called to be an honest and exemplary citizen. He is actively engaged in building a just society. He makes political choices that favor the weakest, not those that safeguard their own interests. Jesus’ answer, however, is not limited to state the duty to contribute to the common good with the payment of taxes. He adds: “Give to God what is God’s.”

The verb he uses more precisely means “to return.” What belongs to God? Tertullian already in 200 A.D. realized that he was the man that was handed back to God. Creating him, in fact, he had said: “Let us make man in our image.” (Gen 1:26)

If the coin had to be “returned” to Caesar it was because on it was stamped the face of his master. Man, however, must be “returned” to God. Man is the only creature on whom the face of God is imprinted. He is sacred and no one can take him as his own. Those who make them their own (enslave, oppress, exploit, dominate, use the, as an object…) should immediately return him to his Lord.

Whose image is this”…….whose image are we?

May Tam

Like the Pharisees who could identify instantly the image of Caesar on the coin, it is easy for us too, in our daily lives, to associate images with people or things. But do we ever think of ourselves being images too? Today let us reflect upon this common little word—image.

Jews never made an image of God for the Law forbade it. But in Genesis 1:26 we read, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, so God made an image of Himself, a little image called man. In Creation Theology, creation and redemption are interconnected, that is, the purpose of creation does not only manifest God’s perfection and glory, but is part of God’s overall plan which includes its redemption. Thus the first Adam was made according to the second Adam (Christ) who, being the source of all creation and the perfect “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), is the template which men are made after. God thus modeled man on Christ.

If we truly understand this, we will be in awe. As descendants of Adam, we are in fact God’s image in Christ. We are not evolved from some primates or just come into being accidentally. The psalmist in Psalm 8 understood this and said, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than a god and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet.” “Man is [truly] the summit of the Creator’s work” (CCC343).

Being in the image of God refers to the totality of the human person in both the natural and supernatural aspects. In the material sense, our human body shares the dignity of the Creator and is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). Hence we should not mistreat, abuse or despise it, both of ours and others’. In the spiritual sense, we should reflect our Creator’s goodness and love in relation to the rest of the creation. We are God’s representatives, His stewards in Creation and therefore we have the responsibility for what God has entrusted to us. Being in the image of God means to have a direct relationship to God. We are able to know, to respond to and to have reference to Him. We should therefore serve, love and honor our Creator. Being in the image of God also means to resemble that of the Trinity. Though each of us has our own individuality, but we are not made just for our own selves. Like the divine communion of the Trinitarian Persons, we are made for interpersonal communion. Lastly, being in the image of God is not static. We, being the imperfect image have a dynamic role to fulfill, that is, we should constantly strive to become Christ, the perfect image of the Father (cf Hebrew 1:3), and let this image fully dwell in us.

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