Tuesday, 5 June 2018 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the need for us to be good disciples of the Lord, while at the same time, we must also be obedient to the current rules and laws of the land, in the world that we live in today, as the Lord showed us through the parable of the silver coin, which He told His disciples and the Pharisees, on who to obey in the matter of paying taxes and faith.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law attempted to bring Jesus into their trap, by asking Him a very controversial question and issue during that time. At that time, the matter of paying taxes was a very important one, as the Jewish people lived under the sovereignty and might of the Roman Empire, which had slowly increased their power and sovereignty over the Jews.

The Jews, who had just within a century or two, won their hard-fought independence from the tyranny of the Seleucids, as recorded in the Book of the Maccabees, found themselves to be under another overlord, the Romans, who imposed on them taxes to be paid to the Roman state, that is to the Emperor, as well as certain requirements that were loathed by the Jews.

That is why, the tax collectors were highly reviled and hated at the time of Jesus, and they were treated as equally badly as the prostitutes, as sinners and traitors to the people. Yet, those people did not benefit from what they have done, as they merely had to do what was necessary, to collect money and taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers, a task that was increasingly difficult at that time.

Thus, the Pharisees prepared a well-laid trap for Jesus, as if the Lord answered that the people should not pay taxes to Caesar or the Emperor, then the Pharisees and the elders could have quickly reported Him to the Roman authorities, using His argument and words against Him. How is that so? That is because they would have presented the argument that the Lord Jesus was leading a rebellion against Rome, and His great popularity and large following would have validated that argument in the eyes of the Romans.

On the other hand, should the Lord have said that the people must pay taxes to Caesar, then He would also be in a difficult situation, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would have quickly capitalised on His words and condemned Him just as they condemned the tax collectors. He would have been labelled as a traitor, having betrayed the people by His own support for the Roman taxes.

Therefore, as we can see, by right, the Lord was in a very difficult situation, as it does not matter what He said, He would encounter difficulty and problem either way. But the Lord knew what was in the minds of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. He knew that they were plotting against Him, and He refused to be led into their trap. Instead, He presented to them the power of His divine wisdom, and revealed to them the undebatable truth.

Through the Lord’s own words, He told them all to give what is due to God, and give what is due to Caesar. He based this upon the fact that the silver coins used for the paying of the taxes ultimately were minted and issued by the Roman state. Therefore, what the people had done by paying taxes, were merely returning what the state had loaned out to them. It was not theirs in the first place.

Meanwhile, the Lord reminded them all, especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, that we have even more important things that we owe the Lord, much more than all the worldly goods and possessions of this world. And that is, our love and commitment to Him. God does not need anything, as He is all perfect and good, and there is nothing that we have, that did not come from God.

However, God loves each and every one of us dearly, and while in theory He has no need for our love, but as in any loving relationships, love exists between two parties. Thus, if God has loved us all so much, then it is only right that we should love Him in the same manner, and this is what the Lord Jesus said, as ‘give the Lord God, what is due for Him as Our God.’

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law did not love God. Rather, they loved themselves, and tried their best to accumulate for themselves, all power, glory, honour, fame and greatness. That is what God was angry with them for, and He reminded us not to follow in their footsteps. Instead, He has shown us all the example, how to be truly faithful and obedient to Him.

And today, we commemorate the feast of St. Boniface, holy bishop and martyr of the faith. St. Boniface was a great missionary in the region now known as northern Germany, where pagans still lived in large numbers during the time of St. Boniface. He preached to many of the pagans, calling them to repent from their sins, and explained about the faith to many who asked about the Lord.

He encountered difficulties and many challenges during his mission, but many people converted to the faith because of his courageous work and devotion to God. St. Boniface would then encounter his martyrdom when he and his company was attacked by bandits, who sought to plunder the belongings of the group. They thought that those belongings would contain precious treasure, while in fact they were books on Christian teachings.

St. Boniface told his followers not to fight back against the enemies, and they would rather hold back their arms, as according to their faith, the way of violence is not the way to be taken. Rather than treasuring his life over that of his possessions, it was told that St. Boniface defended his faith and the Gospels to the very end. We can see from this, just how devout and committed this holy man of God had been.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to love the Lord with all of our hearts, by giving Him our very best. As St. Boniface had shown us, let us put the Lord as the focus and the centre of our lives, and then, let us also be obedient and good members of the community we are living in, obeying the laws of the land, as long as they are aligned with what God had taught us in our Christian faith. Let us all give to God what God deserves, and give to the worldly authorities what we owe to them. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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