Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
I’m a little disappointed in my new iPhone 8+.  The camera on it is supposed to be better than any previous camera Apple has ever produced.  12 million pixels.  That means in every pictures there are 12 million little dots of information, that is how fine, how detailed a picture you can get.  Well the first time Nancy took a picture of me I realized that my hair requires somewhere between 15 and 20 million pixels to show up.  Anything less and I look bald, a frightening image! 
And images are important.  That is at the heart of our Gospel story.  The Pharisees, who are the religious authorities and the Herodians, Jewish supporters of Herod, the ruler appointed by Rome, try to trap Jesus with a yes or no question, Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  However he answers he is going to anger one of the groups. Instead he asks them if they have a coin.  The coin they produce is a Roman coin with the image of Tiberius Caesar and an inscription calling him “son of the divine Augustus.”  The very fact that one of those in the group would have a Roman coin was blasphemy - carrying something that claimed Caesar Augustus was divine was clearly against the first commandment, You shall have no other gods but me.  They had in fact condemned themselves. 

The question of whose image is on the coin is the key point.  The Hebrew word for image literally means an exact copy or reproduction.  Statues representing kings in the ancient world were erected in remote parts of the empire where the king could not physically be and the statue, or image, meant the king was there.  That image took his place.  And people that carried that image acted in the king’s place.  We still do that today, putting pictures of the president on military bases, in Post Offices and government buildings.  And on our money.

So when presented with the coin Jesus replies that if the image belongs to Caesar, return to him what belongs to him.  Jesus follow this command with: And give to God the things that belong to God.”  Now think back to Genesis chapter one:  “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them.”  Just as Caesar’s money belongs to Caesar, so we belong to God.  We were made in his image to physically be Him in all parts of the world.  Often we view this Gospel as simply a story about separation of church and state.  But it is much more.  Think about when we ask someone to tell us about themselves and they proceed to tell us who they are; “I did this and I did that.”  The real question, the question that today’s gospel centers on is not who are we but whose are we; to whom do we belong, to whom is our ultimate allegiance.  Are we the image of the loving God who created us?  Are we Christ to all we meet?

That is the bottom line, the challenge for each of us.  We are the image of God and belong to God.  Do we give Him 100% of ourselves or only what is left over after we do the things we want to do?  How do we describe ourselves?  In terms of our accomplishments or in terms of whose we are?  When we approach this altar, cup our hands and say “Amen” we become more than just the image of God. He who shared in our humanity invites us to share in His divinity.  We take Christ into us so that we may be Christ to the world.  How?  By loving as God loves and loving whom God loves.  Then we are fully the image of God.