O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Alleluia. Blessed are those who fear the Lord
and have great delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land,
a generation of the faithful that will be blest.
Wealth and riches will be in their house,
and their righteousness endures for ever.
Light shines in the darkness for the upright;
gracious and full of compassion are the righteous.
It goes well with those who are generous in lending
and order their affairs with justice,
For they will never be shaken;
the righteous will be held in everlasting remembrance.
They will not be afraid of any evil tidings;
their heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their heart is sustained and will not fear,
until they see the downfall of their foes.
They have given freely to the poor;
their righteousness stands fast for ever;
their head will be exalted with honour.
The wicked shall see it and be angry;
they shall gnash their teeth in despair;
the desire of the wicked shall perish. Alleluia.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
The chief priests, the scribes and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.
None of us likes paying tax. Whether it is income tax, VAT, inheritance tax, or whatever, we do not like paying tax. But, of course, it is something we all have to do. The law insists upon it, and no matter how hard we may try to evade it or avoid it, the paying of tax is a fact of daily life. There is, undoubtedly, a purpose to paying tax. Our taxes ensure the smooth-running of society as well as providing the means to support those who struggle to survive day by day.
In the world of politics, the subject of taxation is very divisive, something to be argued over and to be weaponised as politicians seek power and influence. It is in this political sense that the Pharisees and the Herodians set out to trap Jesus with weasel words. They try to set his sincerity and probity against the legal demands of the occupying Roman regime.
Jesus is not deceived. Jesus understands the purpose of the question. Jesus parries the hostile question with a statement of religious certainty and a challenge for all to examine their relationship with God. Taking a coin in his hand, Jesus draws the conclusion that it must be right to offer it back to the emperor because it bears his portrait and his inscription. Jesus says, in effect: ‘Of course taxes should be paid because the coinage with which they are being paid already belongs to the one whose portrait it bears.’ Jesus does not commit treason, and Jesus does not deny the right of the emperor to claim back that which is his own.
Then Jesus uses the same logic to remind us of another duty that should be paid, this time to a far greater King, to God himself. In the first chapter of the book of Genesis we read: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them.’ Jesus is reminding us that while we have a duty to return coins to the one whose face is stamped upon them, we have a similar duty to return ourselves to God, because we are the very image of God.
Another detail that should not be overlooked is the use of the word ‘hypocrisy’. Hypocrite is the Greek word for an ‘actor’, one who assumes a fictitious persona, one who presents him or her self as someone they are not. The Pharisees and the Herodians who try to trap Jesus are hypocrites because they are approaching Jesus pretending to be what they are not. They are indeed hypocrites.
These few verses from Mark’s gospel are a clear reminder that we are called to remain loyal to God, offering to him that which bears his image, ourselves. Let us pray that we might remain loyal to that calling, and that we might not be distracted by the hypocritical concerns of the world in which we live.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, who is rightfully to be honoured by all that he has made.
As you have given grace to your Church through the Holy Spirit, grant that her members may show that grace by word and deed in their lives.
May all who are concerned in the affairs of this world remember the honour due to you. Enlighten all in authority with the spirit of justice and mercy.
Help us so to live that we shall be good examples to our neighbours and colleagues. Guide in honesty and fair dealing those who do business in this community.
Heal the minds that are warped by bitterness and the wish to harm others. Have mercy on all who are deprived of their true joy by love of vain things.
May the power of the risen Christ, who saves us from the wrath to come, grant to the departed refreshment, light and peace.
May Christ guide us in all our decisions and accept our prayers which we offer in his name.
Prayer for the week
May we accept this day at your hand, O Lord,
as a gift to be treasured,
a life to be enjoyed,
a trust to be kept,
and a hope to be fulfilled;
and all for your glory.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Rop tu mo baile, a Choindiu cride(Irish, 8th century)
translated by Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880–1931)
versified by Eleanor Henrietta Hull (1860–1935)