Tuesday of Week Nine
Tob 2:9ff. A typical family scene of tender goodness, faithful perseverance and some disagreement and quarreling.
Mark 12:13ff. Balancing one’s loyalties between civil and religious responsibilities: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but to God what is God’s.”
The Homespun Virtues
It is good for soul and body to find our daily family life mirrored in the Scriptures. If our lives are that clearly found in the Bible, then God must be present in our homes, even amid our quarrels and banter. The principal virtue is perseverance, whose core is faithfulness and whose heart is love, leavened with humor. To bridge and harmonize these qualities, one needs steady shoulders and a well-balanced head. As the most enigmatic writer in the Bible says: “Be not just to excess, and be not overwise, lest you be ruined. Be not wicked to excess, and be not foolish. Why should you die before your time?” (Eccles 7:16-17)
Tobit’s wife feels that her husband’s piety is a bit too much. When he doubts her honesty over the gift of a young goat, she can take it no longer, “Where are your charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? Your true character is finally showing itself.” It may seem strange that today’s reading ends right there, with Tobit’s wife exasperated and the blind Tobit rendered speechless.
The gospel also ends with no answer, only a very profound but general remark, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but to God what is God’s.” If only he had explained exactly what belonged to Caesar as distinct from what belonged to God! Jesus may not always silence our questions with clear answers, but he always supports honesty and compassion and forgiveness. But the Pharisees and Herodians who questioned him were not seeking an honest answer; so, “knowing their hypocrisy” Jesus looked at them, and began his reply with the question, “Why are you trying to trip me up?”
If we follow the homely example of Tobit and the practical advice of 2 Peter, if we are sincere and open with Jesus; if, indeed, we accomplish what is easily within our power, God will fulfill in us what is beyond even our dreams, “new heavens and a new earth.”
First Reading: Tobit 2:9-14
That same night I washed myself and went into my courtyard and slept by the wall of the courtyard; and my face was uncovered because of the heat. I did not know that there were sparrows on the wall; their fresh droppings fell into my eyes and produced white films. I went to physicians to be healed, but the more they treated me with ointments the more my vision was obscured by the white films, until I became completely blind. For four years I remained unable to see. All my kindred were sorry for me, and Ahikar took care of me for two years before he went to Elymais.
At that time, also, my wife Anna earned money at women’s work. She used to send what she made to the owners and they would pay wages to her. One day, the seventh of Dystrus, when she cut off a piece she had woven and sent it to the owners, they paid her full wages and also gave her a young goat for a meal. When she returned to me, the goat began to bleat. So I called her and said, “Where did you get this goat? It is surely not stolen, is it? Return it to the owners; for we have no right to eat anything stolen.” But she said to me, “It was given to me as a gift in addition to my wages.” But I did not believe her, and told her to return it to the owners. I became flushed with anger against her over this. Then she replied to me, “Where are your acts of charity? Where are your righteous deeds? These things are known about you!”
Gospel: Mark 12:13-17
Then they sent to him 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.”