Tuesday 6 June 2023 week 9 in Ordinary Time
I, Tobit, took a bath; then I went into the courtyard and lay down by the courtyard wall. Since it was hot I left my face uncovered. I did not know that there were sparrows in the wall above my head; their hot droppings fell into my eyes. White spots then formed, which I was obliged to have treated by the doctors. But the more ointments they tried me with, the more the spots blinded me, and in the end I became blind altogether. I remained without sight four years; all my brothers were distressed; and Ahikar provided for my upkeep for two years, till he left for Elymais.
My wife Anna then undertook woman’s work; she would spin wool and take cloth to weave; she used to deliver whatever had been ordered from her and then receive payment. Now on March the seventh she finished a piece of work and delivered it to her customers. They paid her all that was due, and into the bargain presented her with a kid for a meal. When the kid came into my house, it began to bleat. I called to my wife and said, ‘Where does this creature come from? Suppose it has been stolen! Quick, let the owners have it back; we have no right to eat stolen goods.’ She said, ‘No, it was a present given me over and above my wages.’ I did not believe her, and told her to give it back to the owners (I blushed at this in her presence). Then she answered, ‘What about your own alms? What about your own good works? Everyone knows what return you have had for them.’
With a firm heart he trusts in the Lord.
The chief priests and the scribes and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some Herodians to catch him out in what he said. These came and said to him, ‘Master, we know you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you, and that you teach the way of God in all honesty. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay, yes or no?’ Seeing through their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why do you set this trap for me? Hand me a denarius and let me see it.’ They handed him one and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they told him. Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’ This reply took them completely by surprise.
How cunning is the human mind to create a trap such as this. And for what purpose? To win? Pride? What do they gain by bringing down someone else? One only has to follow the trails of politicians and churchmen to hear such wizardry.
When I did my training in psychotherapy my trainer said, “be careful of using the absolutes”. I will never forget that advice. I have heard those absolutes many times in my life. From my own mouth as much as the mouth of others. How does one answer a question “yes” or “no” if the answer is neither, or perhaps even both.
Another teacher of mine encouraged me to look beyond the dualities of yes and no and seek the meeting places between the light and dark for that is where most people live and God with them. I am not encouraging tepidity. We remember the line of Revelation 3:16, “if you are hot then so be it, if cold then likewise, for if you are lukewarm, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”
No rather, the message is simple. Take the pathway of God. For it is the most inclusive path to follow. On this path we meet all our fellow travellers, and it is on this path that our empathy rises. Here is the place of appreciation and understanding. Often this path is trodden by the humble and meek. It is the path of greatest honesty as Tobit’s wife reminds him, and as Jesus reminds the chief priests, scribes, and elders.
Give to God what belongs to God nothing else matters. We recall once again the Foundation and Principle of Ignatius that puts the Jesus at the centre of everything. Matthew 6:33 says, “Consider the lilies of the field; if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you? So, seek first his reign and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.“