In today’s reading, Jesus is approached by the Pharisees and the Herodians. We know, from previous readings, that the Pharisees opposed Roman authority and the Herodians supported it. Despite these fundamental differences, the groups team up in an effort to trick Jesus.

They ask Jesus whether or not paying taxes to the emperor is in adherence with the law of God. Their hope is to corner Jesus into giving an unlawful response. If he says paying is unlawful, he speaks against Roman rule. If he says paying is lawful, he undermines Jewish beliefs.

Jesus is not fooled and his clever response exposes their scheme. He notes that because Caesar’s image is on the coins that taxpayers pay, the coins belong to Caesar, and it’s logical that they be returned to him. He adds that people must also do the same with what is owed to God.

It’s important to emphasize that Jesus does not answer whether taxes abide to the law of God. Instead, he suggests the Pharisees and Herodians should be concerned with whether they’ve been repaying God with what is owed to him—true discipleship.

The lesson within today’s reading is one of perspective. God’s rules are not related to the worldly matter of taxes, but to good discipleship. Keeping this perspective is not always easy. Our responsibilities can become overwhelming and overshadow our role as disciples. But even in these moments, we must always put our duties to God first. In doing so, God will guide us through periods of hardship—no matter how big or small.

We will conclude our reflection with the words of Dr. Joseph Sclafani, a dedicated volunteer whose efforts have supported us during our COVID-19 emergency response. The excerpt we share with you today was written just over a year ago, when Dr. Sclafani first joined the CMMB family.

Joe Sclafani participating in our bi-annual international volunteer orientation

In the words below, Dr. Sclafani acknowledges the daunting nature of retirement. But for those who struggle with its prospect, adjusting your perspective can go a long way. For Dr. Sclafani, it revealed a new goal, only achievable with the abundance of time available during retirement. You can read Dr. Sclafani’s full reflection on our blog.

I can tell many stories about individuals who used their skills creatively in the later years of their careers to make a difference in the lives of others: A retired lawyer who dedicated a year of his life to teaching forestry management in an area of the country undergoing devastating deforestation; A Jesuit priest, who was a gifted surgeon, yet found the time to visit the sick in a Malawi prison; A woman leading a team of Malawians to repair wells across the country. They are examples of everyday people who share the same goal—to make a difference in the lives of God’s most vulnerable individuals.

Those who hear the call will receive abundant gifts in return. My stethoscope, hands, and heart are once again my best friends, at the bedside and in the operating room, reducing the complexities of advanced technology. I have developed new and enduring friendships, a new sense of a global community, and an abundance of gratitude for the opportunity to give back to those most in need.

In grace and peace,


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