We're all pretty familiar with today’s Gospel passage. There a lot of sub-plots and meanings underlying the background of the coinage at the time of Jesus. Looking at the most obvious, the Herodians once again were trying to put Jesus in a compromising situation. They thought because of the head of the emperor on the coin Jesus would say it wasn’t acceptable for him to take the side of the Zealots who were considered terrorists and radicals, those who violently opposed the Romans.
Come, gather ‘round this table, all you from far and near.
Gather ’round this table, for all are welcome here.
— Marty Haugen “Gather ‘Round This Table”
Have you ever been invited to a wedding but really didn’t want to go? Maybe you had a rift with someone in the wedding party, or you were expected to purchase a pricey gift? Or perhaps you didn’t know the couple that well, or you just didn’t want to attend? Whatever the reason, I suspect that many of us have been in the position of declining a wedding invitation.
I’m a worrier. I know I shouldn’t be but I am. I may seem collected and even calm on the outside but a moment doesn’t go by without me worrying about something. Just the other day I was talking to my husband about his job search, our son’s high school options and my widowed mother and I must have said “doesn’t that stress you out?” and “aren’t you worried?”about a dozen times during our five minute conversation. He responded every time with some version of “what good will that do?” What good indeed! And I’m not the only one.
We all want to get in first; to find the best spot, to get the first choice, to get the freshest food. The line forms and when you’re first, you’re first. When you’re last, you’re last. We live our lives with this basic order and have been taught it since we were very young. It’s not nice to cut in line and doing so can elicit anger from those who feel unjustly treated. One of the best places to witness this behavior is at the airport. Don’t you dare try to board with seating #2 when you are clearly seating #3.
Our first reading from Sirach says, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins?” In our Gospel today, Jesus tells a story in which a servant is forgiven a great debt, and then, the same servant goes on to treat a fellow servant—who owes him a much smaller sum—without mercy.
The reading this weekend seem a daunting task. In Ezekiel, we hear the warning to “speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way…” and in Matthew, Jesus directs us to tell our “brother” what his fault is, in an effort to win him over. Doesn’t seem like we’re meant to make any friends, right? My Harmony side tends to initially think, “Is it my place?” The short answer is yes. But, from a place of love and encouragement.
Once a month, Saint Clement publishes stories of parishioners sharing personal stories of how they have connected with Saint Clement and who actively live a stewardship life through prayer, service, and giving. This week we hear from the Emma Christensen:
As Americans, we are blessed to have, generally speaking, the freedom to exercise our religion. For many years, Catholicism was looked on with disfavor and suspicion. My father and I used to laugh about the time, about 20 years ago, when he was seeking a job in Alabama. During the course of the interview, the prospective boss asked an illegal question: “Are you Christian?” Dad was initially taken aback but he answered, “Yes, I am. In fact, my son is a priest.” The man looked at my Dad like he had grown two heads.
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “church?” Having posed this question to several RCIA and confirmation classes over the years, I’ve discovered that the answers to this question are as many and varied as the people in a room. While answers often include specific people, buildings, objects, actions, ecclesial structures and authorities, the word “church” encompasses many realities.
When singer Bruce Springsteen was honored at the Kennedy Center a few years ago, the former Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, paid him tribute. He said,