Scripture: Lectionary 354: June 5, 2012: II Peter 3:12-15. 17-18. Psalm 90:2.3-18.104.22.168. Mark 12:13-17:
Solomon was respected for his great wisdom. Even the Wisdom books of the Bible are attributed to him. We think of him when we read Wisdom, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes or Qohelet. Jesus, too, is the Wisdom and Word of God and in the lesson about payment of taxes we see the practical down to earth wisdom of Jesus on how to settle the tricky question that the Herodians and others raise. The Herodians would favor the Romans and their taxes, the others would not, but both they and the scribes join in trying to put Jesus on the spot. He is able to raise the question they ask to a spiritual level, perhaps, making them and certainly us to think of the great verse in Genesis that tells us we are created in the image and likeness of God. The word “image” comes into the solution Jesus gives with such practical wisdom that it amazes those who were privy to the conversation and controversial question, “Is it lawful to give homage to Caesar by paying the taxes of those who oppress us?” Jesus sees through their hypocrisy and jealousy by telling them to show him a coin. He asks whose image is on it? Of course, it is that of the Caesar named Tiberius. Then the tax coin is to be returned to Caesar and what belongs to God must be rendered to God. Brilliant solution to their testy question.
Mark’s perspective on Jesus always has him teaching his disciples to “think the thoughts of God” and not those of human authorities. His integrity and wholesome approach to everyday problems stems from the truth of his teachings and his witness to always doing the will of God. He keeps pushing us and his disciples to do the same. This is spiritual wisdom which sets things to be decided upon when we must make a decision especially a moral one. Jesus and Solomon are images of the wise person, but Jesus is the sterling image of having lived up to the image and likeness of God. Integrity and selfless giving of himself in love to us and for us were his discernment principles and he lived up to them always. Solomon was wise in a worldly way and was not given to an integrated wholesome approach to love. He failed in the heart of the matters about wisdom while Jesus did not. We like Jesus must always be true to who we really are—images and likenesses of God.
We have seen several examples of the wisdom of Jesus in these controversies that he has with authorities. Mark has collected six of them in this section of his Gospel. We need such sayings of Jesus to help us be truly wise in this complicated and selfish culture to which we belong. This helps us to make the right decisions amidst the noise, confusion, and temptations of those who do not speak the truth nor are integrated as Jesus was. We are called to do God’s will each day. Perhaps, by thanking God in the first moments of each day for making us in God’s image and likeness will enable us to discern what is right and to love others unselfishly. Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertand Buby, S. M.