EDIT: I encourage everyone to read through the commentary as well. So many great points have been raised that are worthy of your attention. They are critical of my viewpoint, but deservedly so. I think this is an extremely worthwhile discussion, so please avail yourselves of the various perspectives. And as always - don't forget to ask the Holy Spirit for His Thoughts, either! *Grin*
Some of you may already be aware of this, but for those of you who aren't, Pope Francis made the decision to have the Mass of the Lord's Supper outside St. Peter's Basilica this Holy Thursday.
I'll be honest. I'm not happy about this. I'm not happy about this at all.
Before you start calling me a Pope Francis hater, let me explain.
Holy Thursday Mass is the kickoff of our most sacred season - Triduum. This is the Mass in which we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and Holy Orders - two Sacraments that exist for one another. Without one, the other cannot exist. Priests are ordained specifically to bring the Eucharist to their people, and the Eucharist exists only on account of those men blessed to be ordained for the duty.
Holy Thursday Mass is no thing to trifle with. Being such a sacred and blessed time in our history, this specific celebration deserves to be treated in the most dignified and respectful manner. Offering this Mass in St. Peter's is what has been done as tradition because, frankly, this Mass is worthy of St. Peter's. If no other Mass is offered in St. Peter's for the rest of the year, THIS ONE SHOULD BE.
I mean, if the Church dictates that Catholic marriage ceremonies not take place outside a church, how is it suddenly OK to have THE MOST IMPORTANT MASS OF THE YEAR in a juvenile prison?!
I get what he's trying to do. He's really big into humility and publicly showing folks that it's necessary and important to care for "the least among us. I'm all for that!
I am not, however, all for neglecting to pay Christ and His Sacraments homage in the manner dictated to us by Tradition (one of our three pillars of Church Authority). I feel this is a misstep on the part of our new Pontiff. It is really disappointing to me. As a Church, God gifted us things like the Basilica of St. Peter specifically so we COULD celebrate with splendor the very special graces afforded to us through the Eucharist and Holy Orders.
I can't help but think he's a little too gung-ho with this whole "Let's toss all tradition aside so I can prove to the public that as the newly elected leader of the Church, I turn away from finer things and ignore past traditions" in an attempt to regain the trust of a very jaded and unhappy world.
Again, I don't think his reasoning is terrible. I really don't. I think we really do need someone to stand up and put an end to the ridiculousness going on in the Church. That being said, we should not be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
We're talking about JESUS and His institution of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. This is Holy Thursday Mass.. the beginning of our Triduum - the opening Mass that sets the stage for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. To offer it in a detention center where you'd only fit a handful of people (successfully closing off the service to the crowds that would have been able to gather in St. Peter's) and replacing the retired priests with children to have their feet washed... I just feel like this is going three steps too far on the "Look how humble and willing to buck tradition I am, so don't worry, the Church will be back to its humble and poor-loving self soon" scale.
Holy Father, I'm praying for you because you've got quite the job to do. I pray you're able to clean up the mess you've been left and I'm still hoping your intentions on this are pure and true. Your decision, however, has truly, truly unsettled me. My heart is not at ease.
And I realize I'm the odd man out for calling out this decision since your reasons seem so justifiable. You want to serve the "least among us" and the societal "rejects." You choose troubled children, and how can anyone take issue with such an endearing and gentle display of charity?
I get that I'm in the minority on this, but I can't help but express my discontent, especially given that the washing of the feet is an act Jesus used specifically to prepare and ordain his chosen 12 for their priestly duties. The tradition of washing the feet of retired priests was a beautiful symbol of and testament to this fact!
And also keep in mind Our Lord's appreciation for the woman's actions at Bethany. She poured the entire contents of extremely expensive perfume over Christ to anoint Him. Judas grumbled at her "wastefulness," but Jesus defended her for her actions. She was blessed with something special by God, and she wanted to give back without thought to cost. She simply wanted to offer the finest of what she had to He who had given her so much.
This is a righteous action in the Eyes of the Lord. This is not wasteful and it is not prideful and it is not arrogant. It is taking the gifts God granted and using them to shower splendor and blessings back upon Him. All that we have - all that we are - are meant to honor and glorify the Lord. She did just that, even though some accused her of extravagance.
Oh, Holy Father, my heart breaks at the thought of relegating this most sacred Mass to a jail cell that is barren of sacred relics, sacred artwork, sacred vessels, and even the legions of faithful who would gather to celebrate the Lord's Supper. If we do not allow for such a thing to occur with marriages, how can we allow such a thing to happen for Holy Thursday Mass?
In a place that is already barren of Catholicism, how will those children come to understand the importance of the procession after Holy Thursday Mass where the sanctuary is stripped of its ornamentation, artwork and finery... sentenced to suffer the same death and tomb of Her Eternal Bridegroom? These traditions are in place because they are important... they are educational... and they are pleasing to God because this is the manner in which He saw fit to remind us of His Sacrifice so that we might grow closer to His Heart of Love.
The thought of this brings actual tears to my eyes. This seems wrong. Everything about this seems wrong, wrong, wrong. My heart cannot quiet its echoing cry of discontent.
For Good Friday, I was lucky enough to find a parish that offered Confession for two hours before noon.
The church was barren, save for an empty wooden cross crowned with a ring of thorns. I wanted to kiss the cross as I waited for confession, but it was in the sanctuary so I could not.
This church had also removed all the kneelers which I thought was interesting. I didn't mind kneeling on the floor and thought it was a good idea that we could now offer up this slight mortification in union with Christ.
All the fonts were either empty of draped in purple. It almost felt wrong that the sunlight poured in through the gorgeous stained glass windows. Did nature somehow forget that Jesus was suffering death? Did the sun forget that we were to remember His Passion today?
No - nature didn't forget. That same sun shone down upon Christ as He followed the Via Dolorosa. That burning sun tried so hard to light His way... to warm His Body that must've been shivering dreadfully for lack of Blood. It poured its rays of warmth over Our Lady to offer her even the simplest of condolences. It offered itself to the people - the same people who angrily kicked, spit upon and mocked the Savior. If the sun could think, would it have let loose torrential solar flares in an effort to enlighten these ignorant people that they were cruelly murdering the innocent and mighty Hand of Creation? Would it have spun faster to strengthen its gravitational pull in order to pull its God closer to itself in a protective embrace?
That sun - our sun - was the same sun that shone down on Christ's hanging Body upon the Cross. It didn't forget... maybe it just knows better than we do the power of Christ's resurrection and wants to remind us that though our hearts are black with grief, His Light will prevail and will work Itself into even the darkest of tombs.
Then I began thinking about Our Lady and the grief she must've carried along that same trail of tears. To stand at the foot of His Cross and to fully understand that this was the Sacrifice she was born to offer in union with Her Son... incredible. The same Baby she cradled in her arms and nursed at her breast... the same Child who picked her wild flowers and proudly crafted His first wood project into a gift for her... the same Man who she watched heal, love and unite - now she watched His final, passionate act of Love during His earthly Life.I cannot even imagine that pain. When I think of the Blessed Mother and the other women who were forced to watch their children be sacrificed (for early martyrs, this was common- to endure witnessing the torture and death of your children before being killed yourself) my heart nearly stops. My breath always catches because as a mother, I cannot help but put Vincent's face on each of those children. I cannot help but imagine my own indescribable terror, pain and fury as I was shackled to a wall to endure Vincent's agonizing torture, unable to help, comfort or avenge him. Would I be able to offer our suffering up to God as Mary did?And I do think of this often. I can't help myself, especially with the increasing amounts of political pressure being built up against the Catholics not only in this country, but all around the world. It's no secret that Christianity is the most persecuted faith in the world (actually, it might be in the US where many assume it's Islam). Also, since I subscribe to VOM's monthly newsletter, the reality of this problem is often in my thoughts. My husband has often questioned why I continue reading these things as they tend to make me upset. I respond that my ignorance doesn't help, and at the very least, these folks deserve to have people aware of their plight... even if the only thing we can do is offer prayers for them. I'm not willing to ignore the suffering of others in order to spare myself a few sleepless nights. It doesn't seem right. I won't lie - there have been times where I've wanted to put down books or newsletters. I've wanted to ignore particular headlines because of the emotional stress I'd end up with, but I typically end up reading on. I have to. How would I feel if someone ignored me? How would I feel if someone had the ability to help me and shut the door because it was just "too painful" to even acknowledge my pain's existence?It's why I forced myself to endure learning about the different methods of abortion. For weeks I'd burst into tears, dropping to my knees to beg God to force us to stop these heinous murders. I didn't care if that meant the world would end, I just wanted the suffering of these innocent children to stop. This was actually during a period that John tried "forbidding" me from accessing the internet. Heh - he knew he couldn't really forbid me, and I doubt he wanted to, but he was so upset for me that he didn't know what else to do. He didn't understand why I kept trying to learn more about abortions. He said, "You know they happen, and you learning about how they happen isn't going to make abortions happen less."I said, "You're right. My understanding won't stop abortions because I already made the decision to never participate, but I bet if others who haven't made that decision learned about abortion it would happen less!"And it's true - so many people who are "pro-choice" really don't understand all that goes into an actual abortion. For all the philosophical waxing pro-choicers do, they never once get into the hard-science of what an abortion physically does to both a child and the mother who carries it. But I digress. Sorry!
Back to Good Friday. After confession, I went to my own Church for the silent prayer before the Crucifix before 3pm when the statue was veiled. I tried to imagine how God the Father felt - He willingly handed Jesus over. He understood that His Sacrifice was necessary, but the cost! How much He loves us to do this!
Would I be willing to hand over Vincent for such a slaughter?
I mean, let's say that 1 million people were in jail. I'm not talking about the US jail system that allows inmates to watch TV, hang out in a cell, and be provided with 3 meals a day.
No... I'm talking about a hellish, hard labor camp akin to Auschwitz or worse.
Now let's say these million people aren't just random strangers... they're family. Yes, they are family that's guilty of every offense possible ranging from cursing all the way through murder, but they're family. Would I be willing to sacrifice Vincent for the lot of them?
Let's take it one step further... let's say these million family members aren't just distance relationships. They're a million Maria's and Shannon's... a million Raymond's and yes, even a million Evelyn's... my true brothers and sisters. What then? Would I be willing to hand Vincent over to save them?
And finally - even more than being my brothers and sisters - what if they were my children? What if these jailed souls were my children? Would I be able to hand over Vincent, my first, only and beloved son over for a torturous death so that they might be freed from jail?
What if I knew that even if I offered Vincent's life for theirs that they'd ridicule our sacrifice? That they'd scorn him?
How could God the Father ever consent to this sacrifice??? How could Christ, knowing full well what the future would hold for His wayward children???
Yes, we indeed crucified the entire Trinity that first Good Friday. We continue to crucify Them each time we are negligent in our duties as Christians... as dignified human beings made in His Image.
May God have mercy on us, and may we remember the Love shown to us through the truest Sacrifice ever made.
A dear friend of mine (who I think is an atheist) posted the following status update this morning:
All of the international partners I work with have the entire week off for Easter. A lot of them have very generous, mandated vacation packages as well. Why is the USA the greatest country in the world again?
It took all my will power not to respond with:
Must be that whole "Government hates religious expression" business we've been combating.
Since I know he had no intention of sparking a religious / political debate, I held my tongue (or fingers, I guess). Besides, not everyone in our government is anti-religious expression. Just seems to be the top dogs. Le sigh.
St. Peter's Denial
I remember the first time I was stuck working for Good Friday. The previous years I'd planned my vacation days to coincide with the days of Holy Week I wanted to observe. Even as a fallen away Catholic I'd be sure to take off on Good Friday so I could at least spend some time in reflection / prayer.
Anyway, the first time I had to work I felt like I was somehow betraying Jesus. Instead of accompanying Him to Calvary, I was sitting behind a desk updating lesson plans and making phone calls that I knew were absolutely pointless. I stole into the bathroom for a few moments at 3pm, but it just wasn't the same. I was miserable the entire day, because as I said, I really like I was betraying Jesus (and to a certain extent, His Mother).I'll be keeping folks in the same boat this year in my prayers on Friday (I have off, thank God!). Special thanks to Michelle from Liturgical Time for reminding me that I'm lucky enough to spend my time in prayer this year.
I realized I felt similarly last night. I was trying to pray the rosary, but could hear a conversation going on downstairs between my husband and a friend. I wasn't really praying so much as reciting mindlessly, and I realized that I must've found the conversation between John and his friend more interesting than Christ's Passion. I was subconsciously putting more value on the conversation I was paying attention to than the prayers I was supposed to be participating in.
As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I imagined being presented with two options. Follow Christ along the road towards Salvation and be an active witness to His Mercy, or listen to pointless musings between my husband and his friend that have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on me.
Once I viewed it in this way, I closed the door to block out the sound and was better able to focus on what I was supposed to be thinking about. Sometimes we really do need a swift kick in the pants to set our priorities straight... to take inventory of the things that really matter.
I apologize - I wasn't able to find a clearer image of this incredible sculpture, but no doubt you get the gist.
This photo is taken directly from Cross Ministries, a non-profit dedicated to reproducing Christ's life through life-sized sculptures. I want to go to Texas so bad now!!! Apparently that's where all their best stuff is. Ha.
Anyway, I have no idea if this ministry is Catholic or not, but considering the items in their gift shop (I saw rosaries and St. Benedict medals), I lean towards the "likely" side. Not that I care. Non-Catholics have just as much claim to Christ's Life as we do, right? :)
Seriously, though - check out their site. Though it's not very stream-lined, the photos of their work are breathtaking.
Anyway, the reason I wanted to post this image is because it's got the Last Supper strategically placed before the foot the Calvary so that at this angle, you can see Jesus offering up not only the bread of Passover, but His Sacrifice on the Cross as well. This is truly the meaning of the Eucharist (which, again, leads me to believe there's a Catholic SOMEWHERE on this ministry's council).
Incredible, right? I also found the video below through Cam's A Woman's Place Facebook page.
Up for a paradigm shift?
Over at Why I am Catholic, someone asked how to deal with the confusion regarding Christ's "less than 3 days" resurrection. Basically folks who bring this up make the argument that the Resurrection of Christ is contrary to the Bible in that Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Sunday morning - not 3 days like "He was supposed to."People tend to forget that Christ's actual Passion began on Holy Thursday. At the moment of Consecration, Jesus gave His consent to the Father regarding the sacrificial role He was about to embark upon. That moment is the spark that began His Passion.
His Agony in the Garden followed in which He prayed for the full repentance of ALL sinners, most especially Judas, I bet.
From there He felt the betrayal of Judas and the violence of the guards who shackled Him and bullied Him along the path towards Caiaphas. He was spat upon, kicked, beaten and humiliated every step of the way. Each blow that fell upon Him, each indignity, He offered up in atonement for our sins. The trials (both the midnight one and the ones before Pilate / Herod) were also full of beatings, spittal, indignations and brutality.
People always forget that Holy Thursday was very much a part of Christ's Passion, not just the horror of Good Friday. Christ suffered so much more than we can ever fully realize, and lopping off Holy Thursday tends to make that even easier for us.
And if anyone tries to argue against that, just remind them that Christ gave us the Mass that night through the Institution of both the Eucharist and the Priesthood. We can't have the Eucharist without the death / resurrection of Christ (which is what the Eucharist celebrates). Since Christ is God - timeless and unconstrained by that 4th dimensional reality - His Sacrifice was already fully present through His consent to God the Father.
Just as the Mass today brings us front and center to the true foot of the Cross, that first Mass then also brought the Apostles to the Cross before they even understood they'd be fleeing from it in fear.
Busted Halo did a wonderful video that's been going viral along the Christian blogosphere. I found it through Michelle at Liturgical Time
. You, too, can see it if you follow her link.Anyway, for as much as I enjoyed the video (and I did - especially the music!), I was bummed they left out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I mean, I understand they're not considered "as important" as the other days of Holy Week, but they're still part of Holy Week and deserve at least an honorable mention, right?Trying to view Holy Week as only Palm Sunday and the Triduum is like viewing a puzzle with several missing pieces. Sure, you can probably make out what the picture's supposed to be, but you miss details and information that make the image clearer and more beautiful.Monday was the cleansing of the Temple - it's what put the Sanhedrin on high alert since the Romans (now present in higher numbers in the city to keep the peace during Passover) saw Christ not only messing with the Jewish folks, but all the Gentiles who gathered in the court of the Temple to exchange goods / services. Tuesday was full of parables and prophecy. Tuesday was, in my opinion, the day that the Pharisees finally decided that Jesus MUST be dealt with before the week's end (due to the Render Unto Caesar response). This was when they finally realized they'd never get the best of Him, and had to find a way to kill Him.Wednesday was the day we remember Judas' actual betrayal. It's also when Christ's death / burial was predicted through the actions of the woman with the perfume. Each day does, after all, bring us one step closer to the Foot of the Cross. Monday reminds us that we must focus on spirituality and a proper last minute cleansing of our own temples (bodies) so we are ready to accept the Sacrifice of Christ. Tuesday, cautions us to always be ready for the return of Jesus lest we be caught unprepared. Wednesday... it's like our last moment during Lent to anoint Jesus with our humble offerings - the charitable acts, fasting, and mortifications completed throughout Lent.Those three days are of such importance. I wish Broken Halo had mentioned something about them. But ah well... there's only so much you can do in 2 minutes, and they certainly picked the highlights!
In between running after Vincent and pulling one of my cats off the wall (no, you didn't misread that, and yes, I had to pull her off my wall) I found National Geographic's Jesus of Nazareth on TV. Interested to see where they were going with this, I kept it on as background noise only to be drawn in repeatedly by the extremely poor historical context given by supposed experts.
Just a few of the ridiculous statements given that prove these folks had no idea what they were talking about:
1. Jesus "had probably never been to the temple" which is why He "reacted so violently" towards the moneychangers.
Never been to the Temple? Are you KIDDING me?! The NT places Him there at least 3 separate times (not including the time He was "found" as a youngster). And as for His "violent reaction" might I point my dear readers to this historically accurate and Biblically sound explanation.
2. There was no Cenacle - Jesus held His Last Supper on the roof of a random building because room was probably too sparse for a group of people so large (meaning Jesus, His 12, and the various female disciples that followed Him).
Something that a lot of folks tend to miss about Jews back then is that they were just as fragmented as Christians are today. You had the upper-class Jews, the religious zealots, the Essenes, and the Jews by blood only. You had folks following John the Baptist, Jesus and probably a smattering of other folks, too. When you realize this, you then realize why that phrase from Holy Thursday becomes key to figuring out exactly where Jesus held His Last Supper.
When the Apostles are freaking out over where to hold the Passover meal, Jesus simply says "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters" we'll have our meal.
This doesn't seem like a big deal to most people. Maybe some might think "Hey Jesus... Jerusalem is packed - how in the world do you want us to spot a particular dude carrying around a pitcher of water? Are you seriously attempting to have us try to find a needle in the haystack?
Think for a quick second, though.
"A MAN will meet you carrying a PITCHER OF WATER."
Back in those times, men didn't do that sorta stuff. Drawing water from the well was a strictly female thing to do. So this wasn't a needle in the haystack goose chase. Instead, Jesus was specifically telling them EXACTLY where to go in order to find a man carrying around a pitcher of water. Only ONE place in Jerusalem would fit the bill, and that'd be (drumroll please...) the Essene quarter. Since Essenes lived a very basic (and typically celibate) lifestyle, the men were forced to take on traditionally feminine duties as the two sexes lived separate from one another. Thus, the only place in Jerusalem you'd be able to find a guy carrying water would be the Essene district.
The Essenes weren't exactly the most loved bunch of Jews. They were highly pious and did not much appreciate what they saw as a degradation of the Temple by secularism and government pressures. However, they waited with great longing for the Messiah, and were huge followers of John the Baptist. As such, they welcomed Jesus kindly and would have given Him anything requested. Thus, the Cenacle is still highly plausible and again takes care of women being present at the Last Supper.
I have no doubt that women helped with the preparation of the meal. After all, Our Lady was close by when Jesus began His Passion, so it's likely she was staying with relatives (who were very likely Essene themselves). That doesn't mean she was present for the Last Supper. It also doesn't mean that Mary Magdalene was, either (which is the point they were trying to make).
Speaking of Mary Magdalene...
3. Jesus and Mary Magdalene were an item.
Bah and humbug. This tired rubbish is so beyond played out that I'd rather listen to the Macarena a thousand times than waste my breath on this anymore. It was at that point I abruptly changed the channel.
Ah well. I noted they didn't seem to interview many Catholics. Lots of Christians, but I didn't note any Catholics. Come to think of it, I didn't note any Jews, either. For a special on a 1st century Jewish man, you'd think they'd do a better job of scouring for experts.
This Sunday's gospel is of great interest to me. Only recently did I come to understand the meaning of "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." I admit that as a child, I was always highly confused by this. First, it's on the heels of Jesus' seemingly psychotic reaction to moneychangers in the Temple. That, in and of itself, was at odds with my idea of the peaceful, loving Jesus of the NT. The Jesus who overturns tables, scatters the merchants, and physically assaults the wares of the temple-goers seemed so fundamentally wrong that I'd brush it off, unable to reconcile the differences. Next, Jesus seems to be saying that just because a coin has the Emperor's face on it, it belongs to him. That seems like a cheap way to say "Well, his name is on it, so give it back." That always reminded me of the bully in school who would say "That desk is mine!" and when you'd look at him thinking "What?" he'd point out his name, angrily etched into the grain, as proof the territory belonged solely to him.However, I came across a book not too long ago that taught me how to delve deeper into the context of these passages. In attempting to better understand the Bible, this is one of those passages I took out for a test drive. As I try to teach my current crop of students, we cannot fully appreciate the lessons of the New Testament without first understanding the Old. We also cannot understand the lessons of Christ without looking at His messages as a whole.In other words, I'd been going about processing this particular story all wrong. Instead of "ignoring" the images of Jesus I was uncomfortable with, I needed to embrace them. Instead of reading this story out of context (just a snippet of a larger message), I needed to place this on the timeline of Christ's message and hear what He was trying to say and listen to the message as one of those present would have.So let's lay out the framework for those less familiar with this particular story.Jesus is preaching, publicly, to a group of the faithful.The Pharisees send a representative to entrap Jesus with a question. The answer to that question, they believe, will indict Him against Rome and ensure His execution as traitor.Jesus discerns the motive for the question and reprimands the representative, not before, however, indicting the representative against the Jewish people He was preaching to.Now that we have the framework, we need to place this in a timeline. This exchange happens on Holy Tuesday... two days after Palm Sunday and three days before Good Friday. Unless you really know your gospels, that fact can be lost when you're hearing this reading on a Sunday in October. The reason this is particularly important is the holiday in which it occurred. Jesus was in Jerusalem for Passover. Passover brought INCREDIBLE numbers of Jews from all over the empire to the temple to celebrate their most important feast. Keep in mind... since Jerusalem was a huge mecca the week leading up to Passover, extra Roman authorities were brought in to keep Roman rules in check. In other words, there were a lot Jews in Jerusalem and because of that, there were a lot of Roman soldiers eyeballing everyone as a potential threat. That's also why Pontius Pilate was in Jerusalem. He didn't typically reside there. He, too, was brought in as an extra presence... a heavy reminder that though the Jews were allowed to practice their religion, they were still to recognize Rome and Caesar as the supreme "Son of God."As a result, it makes perfect sense that the Pharisees would be extra inclined to get Jesus out of their hair. After all, Jesus represented a very real threat to them. They weren't just concerned that He challenged their religious authority... they were extremely concerned that He threatened their very existence in the face of THEIR bosses (the Romans) who had tasked them with keeping their people under the authority of Caesar. So the fact that Jesus is running around preaching, in public, about the Kingdom of God and inviting the lower classes to unite (peacefully) against the materialistic, imperialistic and oftentimes violent Rome... it's no wonder their panties were in a bunch! If Pontius Pilate caught wind that the puppet leaders of the Jews weren't doing their job in assuring the authority of Rome, not only could they have been deposed - they could have been put to death as traitors themselves! Again, this is VERY important to understanding why the Pharisees were so gung-ho about trapping Jesus in a public setting. Considering that Jesus had already gone berserk with the moneychangers just a day earlier, their nails were bitten to the cuticle and they needed to prove themselves as capable of squashing this rebellious leader. The question they posed to Jesus was this: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" Truth be told, that is an absolutely BRILLIANT question to ask. To answer "No!" would label Jesus a rebellious traitor who could be jailed or worse for His denial of Roman rule. To answer "Yes!" would label Jesus as a traitor to His own people. Remember, the Jews at this time were under the rule of Rome. The yearly siphoning off of their hard-earned money was a painful reminder that they were not free and were, instead, working to prop-up the arrogance and wealth of their overlords. This is why tax collectors were hated. This is why money-changers weren't trusted. So the Pharisees figured this question was win-win for them. A "no" would ensure Jesus was sent to jail and a "yes" would ensure every Jew listening to Him would spite Him henceforth. I have to give credit where credit is due, and they deserve credit here. That is a BRILLIANT question to pose.No worries, though. For as brilliant as that question is, Jesus' answer trumps it by a mile. Jesus says "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the money for the tax."This first piece of information, though typically glossed over, is hilarious. Why did Jesus call them hypocrites? Why did He ask them to show Him a coin?Because Jesus didn't have a Roman coin! None of the people He was preaching to would have had a Roman coin. Only the Pharisees or their corrupt representatives would be carrying around Roman coins! Jews would have to go to the Temple to change their local currencies into Roman currency in order to pay the tax. Once the tax was paid, they'd go right back to using local currency, doing their best to avoid any and all ties with Roman lordship (including use of Roman money). Jesus, in asking for a coin, proves two things at once. First, He is unified with His Jewish followers against using Roman money. Secondly, He proves that the Pharisees were NOT unified with the Jews because they DID, in fact, keep and use Roman money.This is why Jesus revealed them to be hypocrites. They put Jesus to the test without realizing that they, themselves were guilty of that which they were attempting to paint Christ into a corner with. Ah... hilarious.Anyway, after they acknowledge the image of Caesar on the coin Jesus' response continues "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." This response is in no way evasive. It seems like that at first glance, though. However, in order to understand how precise this response is, the listeners must first understand the reference Jesus makes. Since the Roman soldiers wouldn't have been avid followers of Jewish Scripture, they wouldn't have picked up on the fact that Jesus was calling His listeners to mobilize for the coming revolution. The Jews Jesus was preaching to, however, would have heard the message loud and clear. The representatives of the Pharisees, too, would have understood the message, but would have been powerless to explain it to Roman soldiers. Thus, Jesus spoke the Truth free from reprisal.You may be wondering how this could have been a call to mobilize. Again, let's go back to the Old Testament. 1 Maccabees, Chapter 2 deals with the defilement of the Temple and the enslavement of the Jews by Gentile forces. A small group of Jews decided to accept the violent force the Gentiles were using in coercing them to ignore God and His Commands. As a result, they were murdered viciously. Another small group of Jews, seeing this attack on their way of life, banded together and began a rebellion against the Gentile forces, demanding respect for the laws of God in the face persecution from Gentiles (those with no regard for God's Commands). The leader of this rebellion, Mattathias, was put to death for his part. However, before he accepted his fate, he pressed his followers to continue the fight for the right to follow God's Will above all else. His final words before execution were "Pay back the Gentiles what they deserve and observe the precepts of the law."Sound familiar?Mattathias wasn't telling his followers to pay the Gentiles taxes. He was requesting that his followers avenge the violence committed by the Gentiles and to always give God the obedience His Law deserves.This entire nuance was lost on the Roman soldiers who no doubt stood watch over the crowd. Jesus' followers, however, must have inwardly rejoiced, amazed - no doubt - by His courage and desire to overthrow the Romans who so viciously ruled them. Jesus took their very dangerous trap and turned it into such a triumphant victory that the Pharisees were probably besides themselves with fear. It's no wonder they stepped up their efforts (through Judas) to dismantle Jesus' "Kingdom of God" rebellion before they, themselves, ended up killed.So now, having a better grasp of the timeline, framework, and audience of this exchange, we come to understand that Jesus isn't just saying "Everything belongs to God." Jesus is concretely saying: "Followers, I have come as I have promised you. I have begun the rebellion as your Messiah. I have come to bring you salvation... to bring you the Kingdom of God. For that, I am happy to die. I now ask the same of you. After My Death, you must continue to carry out God's Commands. You must continue to strive to follow God's Will, and God's Will alone. Despite imperialism, despite materialism, despite the persecution that is sure to come, you MUST be willing to abandon yourselves to the Word of God. YOU carry the stamp of God within your soul, and as such, YOU belong to God. Give yourselves to Him wholly in all you do."A very interesting and spine-tingling note about Mattathias' final words that only more firmly cements Jesus' prophetic call to action:"Here is your brother Simeon who I know is a wise man; listen to him always, and he will be a father to you. And Judas Maccabeus, a warrior from his youth, shall be the leader of your army and direct the war against the nations."Just as Mattathias left his followers Simeon (also known as Simon or "Thassi") as a wise and trusted father for his people, Jesus left for us Peter (ALSO known as Simon) as our first Holy Father. It's interesting to me that Mattathias' Judas is a champion of the Jewish armies while Jesus' Judas turns out to be unwitting champion of the enemy's army. "Behold, I make all things new!"