The Scripture readings for this Sunday are rich in meaning for this important global moment as Pope Francis hosts the 16th Ordinary Synod of the Bishops with participation of bishops, men and women religious and laity. They are listening deeply to one another at round tables. Pope Francis is inviting them to embrace a vision of the Church that is open and welcoming to all, acting in memory of Jesus.
In St, Matthew’s Gospel, we experience Jesus as a simple person, being direct and listening to others with compassion — and calling others to do the same. One of the followers of the Pharisees and the Herodians comes to him with a question. The question is short and to the point. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?
Jesus answers, and shows that he is aware of their trickery. He calls them hypocrites because they outwardly show something quite different from what is true internally. He asks for a coin and the identity of the man on the coin. All identify the face of Caesar. In an amazing one-liner, Jesus says, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
The Cesars’ Roman empire operated not so differently from today’s neoliberal order — power was sought through military force for the purpose of acquiring more wealth and land. The digital world we live in is an age of misinformation. It is difficult to discern right from wrong. The allure of consumerism and materialism competes with our belonging to God. We were created to be relational people who thrive when we collaborate with one another.
What belongs to God is at the heart of the synodal journey of faith we are on. On each of our faces is the image and likeliness of God, with which we were created. How do I reflect the face of God in my environment? A story is told of a tourist in Mexico: he offered a street child a dollar if he could say where God is. “I could give you two dollars if you could tell me where God is not,” responded the child.
October 22 is when we celebrate World Mission Sunday. Pope Francis exhorts us to create a culture of welcoming, offering hospitality and generosity to all people who need it.
I have been privileged to receive hospitality and generosity as a Maryknoll sister missioner by the people of Panama for more than 30 years. In my ministry with older adults, I have grown in faith and courage through my relationship with so many wise men and women. They have shown me the true face of God.
Maryknoll Sister Geraldine Brake, of Wilmington, Delaware, served for nine years in Nicaragua during the country’s civil war and has been missioned to Panama since 1989. She works with the foundation New Life, which provides housing and other services for the elderly.
Featured image: An elderly woman receives care and housing through the foundation New Life, a ministry of Maryknoll Sister Geraldine Brake, which assists seniors in Panama. (Maria-Pia Negro Chin/Panama)