Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Image of Caesar and The Image of God

Pope's Homily at Mass With New Evangelizers

"Proclamation Must Always Be Preceded, Accompanied and Followed by Prayer"


“(…) A brief reflection also on the central question of the tribute to Caesar. Jesus answers with astonishing political realism, linked to the theo-centrism of the prophetic tradition. The tribute to Caesar is paid, because the image on the coin is his; but man, every man, bears in himself another image, that of God, and hence he is His, to whom each one owes his existence. The Fathers of the Church, inspired in the fact that Jesus refers to the image of the Emperor coined on the coin of tribute, interpreted this step in the light of the fundamental concept of man as image of God, contained in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis.

“An anonymous author writes: ‘The image of God is not imprinted on gold but on the human race. Caesar's coin is gold, God's is humanity … hence, give your wealth to Caesar, but keep for God the unique innocence of your conscience where God is contemplated … Caesar, in fact, has engraved his image on each coin, but God has chosen man, whom He has created, to reflect his glory’ (Anonymous, Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 42). And St. Augustine used this reference many times in his homilies: ‘If Caesar claims his own image engraved on the coin,’ he affirms, ‘will God not exact from man the divine image sculpted in him?’ (En. In Ps., Psalm 94:2). And still: ‘As the coin is returned to Caesar, so the illumined soul is returned to God imprinted by the light of his face ... Christ in fact dwells in man's interior’ (Ivi, Psalm 4:8).

This word of Jesus is rich in anthropological content, and it cannot be reduced solely to the political realm. The Church, therefore, does not limit herself to remind men of the correct distinction between the sphere of Caesar's authority and God's, between the political and the religious realm. The mission of the Church, as Christ's, is essentially to speak of God, to remind of his sovereignty, to remind everyone, especially Christians who have lost their identity, of God's right over what belongs to Him, that is, our life.”

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