January 15, 2018

Our Venerable Fathers Paul of Thebes (312-37) and John the Hut-Dweller (465-74)

1 Peter 2:21-3:9; Mark 12:13-17

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Today’s gospel is about two images. The first is obvious: the image of the Roman emperor on the coin. This picture of the emperor shows that he is in charge: that the economy takes place under his supervision, that it is his guidance and protection that allows the Roman Empire to prosper, that it is his political power that has united the known world into the Pax Romana, the peace and stability made possible by the Roman Empire.

The second image is not specifically mentioned, but it is also present in the events of today’s gospel: the image of God, which everyone in the story bears in him or herself.  Every person, from the Herodian or Pharisee who holds up the coin, to the confused onlooker, is made in the image of God. And, in the same way that the image of the emperor on the coin makes a claim about the emperor’s authority, power, and rights over the coin (and the empire), the image of God on each of us means that God has a claim on us. We give to the emperor what is his due, what he has stamped his image on; and in the same way, we give to God what belongs to him, what he has made in his own image: ourselves. Made in God’s image, we can only find fulfillment in him; just like the coin is only worth something in the economy of the Roman Empire, we only can find our proper purpose in our loving submission to God.