Monday, 12 August 2013 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear about the obligations we have in our lives, the obligations we have to this world, to our nations and our states, and most importantly, the obligation we have to the One True God, our Lord in heaven. Today’s Gospel reading is related to the similar case when the chief priests and the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus in His own words, by asking whether the people should or should not pay tax to Caesar as the Romans imposed on all their subject peoples.

Christ answered the Pharisees aptly, and similarly in this case, when He showed His great wisdom and understanding, which shows the same kind of answer presented to the challenge and test made by the Pharisees aimed at trapping Jesus in His own words. Christ showed that we should obey the law be it divine law or the law of the world, by respectively paying what is due to us to each of these laws and fulfill our obligations respectively.

Yes, that means, as in Christ’s own words, what is due to Caesar, give it to the Caesar, and what is due to the Lord, give it to the Lord. If the people of Jesus’ time are obliged to pay taxes to the Romans because of their position as subject of the Roman Empire, then so be it. But even more importantly, they are also at the same time, the subjects, the servants, and the people of the One, True God, and therefore, they too, should serve the Lord their God and give to Him what is expected by the Lord from all of them.

If we pay taxes to our world authorities, our nations and our governments, the analogues we have today with the Roman Empire of Jesus’ time, with money, with gold and silver, with worldly possession, then how do we pay our due to the Lord our God? We pay our God with our love, with the love that we pour out of our hearts towards Him, and towards our fellow brothers and sisters, the same children of God. That is what He truly wants from us, the love and dedication from us, and not just mere sacrifice or words.

Our nation, our government had given us much, through money, goods, security, care, and many other ways that they can make our lives in this world more comfortable, more convenient, and more relaxed. Through their works and services we had benefited much, just as what had happened during the time of the Roman Empire. Indeed, the Jews did suffer under the rule of the Romans, but they also enjoyed much from the rule by the Romans.

The Romans brought stability to the region and better livelihood to the Jews, who had been living in a turbulent time, in a region fought between the successor kingdoms of Alexander the Great’s Empire. Those who read the Book of the Maccabees will certainly know of the difficulties and struggles faced by the people before the time of Jesus, when the region of Judea was under constant warfare and conflicts. The Romans gave stable livelihood and relative peace to the people that the society of the Jews during the time of Jesus was roughly at peace.

Then, without delving too much into the history of the land, why then do we pay tribute to our Lord and God, the way that we had given tribute to the secular and worldly authorities? That was because just as the governments, authorities, and nations had taken care of us and done good things for us, the Lord our God had done even greater things for our sake, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yes, He had given much to mankind, and He had poured out His love and grace to His beloved people, and not least of all, the descendants of Abraham His servants, that is the people of Israel themselves, whom He cared for and watched from generations to generations. He gave them all that they needed, and He delivered their enemies into their hands to be destroyed, as well as bringing them from the land of their slavery into the land He had promised their fathers. And even when they disobeyed Him and rebelled against His will, He remained faithful and loving to them, and even gave then a new hope, the long-awaited Messiah, the Saviour of the world.

It is therefore to this wonderful and ever-loving God that we give thanks and our wholehearted dedication. It is truly to The Lord that we must give our true allegiance and obedience, to His laws and commandments, superceding any other laws even those of this world. However, this does not mean that we should disobey any kind of worldly authorities that our governments and nations have over us. Instead, just as Christ had done Himself, in advocating to pay taxes to the Emperor and to the Temple, He taught all of us to obey our caretakers in this world as well as our Lord, as long as those caretakers do the duties entrusted to them by God dutifully and do not veer away from the path of the Lord.

Today, brethren, we commemorate the feast of a wonderful and holy saint, that is St. Jane Frances de Chantal. She left all that she had after the death of her husband at the end of the sixteenth century France, and joined the religious life, eventually setting up a religious order on her own, and opened many chapters and branches which works extended to the poor and the unloved ones of the society, giving them love, care, and compassion.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal gave her all in loving her fellow brethren in faith, and she wholeheartedly gave her full dedication to them, and therefore, at the same time, showing her own love and dedication to the Lord our God. That is her way of showing her gratitude and ‘paying her due’ to the Lord. She gave the Lord the wonderful offering of her love, both for Him and for His children, particularly the least of all of them. Yet, she was also dutiful to her own dedication to the society, remaining faithful to the laws of the land, that is the laws of the world.

Through the example set by St. Jane Frances de Chantal, let us be more inspired to do more for the Lord, for our fellow brethren, and for our society, giving our heart, our love, and our dedication to all of them, and in the process making sure that we always put the Lord our God before everything, and always keep Him in our hearts as we proceed with our daily lives and activities. May the Lord who bless us daily and protect us with the power of His hands strengthen us, and renew our faith, our hope, and our love for Him and for all of His people, that is all of us. God bless us all. Amen.