“Shine on the world like bright stars; you are offering it the word of life.”
It may be consoling, for some, to read today’s Gospel. People 2000 years ago were debating the role of God in our world. The rulers then, and not only the powerful like the Romans, happily took to themselves all power and demanded absolute loyalty to the party line. So many global powers and little-known local tyrants demand similar obedience today, backed up by hundreds of surveillance cameras and other devices. As in Jesus’ experience, there were many people who opposed this draconian system, some genuine, others seeking to have their turn and share in the spoils.
The poll tax was, in one sense, a quid pro quo. We provide the security of the land. Hence, you must provide a payment for services rendered.
One sticking point, then, was the inscription on the coin “Tiberius Caesar, August son of the divine Augustus, high priest.” The locals, certainly in Palestine, had qualms about “divine” and “high priest”, but still handled the coins. Thankfully we do not, in most countries, have that dilemma…but!
The other side of the answer also causes friction and, indeed in some quarters, increasing friction today. “Give back to God what belongs to God.” This is illustrated in Victoria as I write, by the enforcement of 10 people in the open for religious services (some different rules apply for weddings and funerals), but 10 can be seated without masks in hotels and other eating establishments. Further, up to 50 in the open! Service to God is running a poor second.
Getting the balance…there’s the rub!
It is not only in public life. It is a challenge whenever we put out feet on the floor each morning. How am I to give back to my God today? “The Lord is great and worthy of praise.”
As Paul contends, we are to show our faith in action, to work for love, and to persevere through hope. In doing so, we will then shine on the world like bright stars and offer it the word of life.
P.S. Saturday October 17 is the Tenth Anniversary of the Canonisation of Mary MacKillop.