TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST.
DIGNITY AND DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN.
“Whose image and inscription is this?” Matt. xxii. 20.
SYNOPSIS. The attempt of the Pharisees to ensnare Christ. His action.
I. The dignity of the Christian shown (1) from the dignity of Christ, (2) His sufferings and death, (3) joint heir ship with Christ to the king dom of God, His Father.
II. The duty of the Christian, (i) gratitude, (2) good life. The testimony of Scripture on this point.
The Pharisees, the never-tiring enemies of our Saviour, consulted among themselves how to ensnare Him in His speech. They asked : “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?” Had our Saviour answered “yes,” they would have accused Him of being a friend of their hated Roman masters, and had He answered “no,” they would have made a complaint against Him as an enemy of the same. Jesus, however, would not allow Himself to be confounded. He asked to be shown a coin and then said to the Pharisees: “Whose image and inscription is this?” They answered: “Caesar s.” Then He said to them : “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar s, and to God, the things that are God s.” My dear Chris tians, in the same way as the coin bears the image and inscription of an emperor or king, so do we bear the image of God, the King of kings. Through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we became the children of God and members of His Church, and as such we bear the inscription of Christ, i. e., we are Christians. This is a great honor and grace, as I will endeavor to point out to you.
I. In order to make the first Christians comprehend this great generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people : that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of dark- grace, St. Peter used these impressive words : “But you are a chosen ness into his marvelous light” (I Peter ii, 9). We have received an even greater grace than the first Christians ; we were not heathens first and then became Christians, but even as infants we were re ceived into the Church of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. So even at the time when we were unable to pray, God had chosen us to be His children. Should we not therefore exclaim with the Psalmist: “He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and His judgment he hath not made manifest to them.” While a great multitude of men on this earth languish in the darkness of error and ignorance, and do not know the true God and Jesus Christ, we are the chosen generation, a holy nation, a purchased people.” What is the consequence? We must, as St. Peter says, “declare the vir tues of Him who has called us to his marvelous light ;” i. e., we must make our gratitude known by a true Christian manner of life, pro claiming the virtues of Him who has called us to His marvelous light of faith. Therefore our Saviour admonishes us : “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Alas ! How few Christians are there who show their gratitude by leading a life according to the tenets of their faith. That we are Christians is therefore a great honor for us, which we should gratefully acknowledge by a truly Christian life.
II. Our inscription, or name, “Christian,” we have received from Christ, because we believe in Him and hope to be saved through Him. According to the Acts of the Apostles the followers of Jesus were first given the name of Christians at Antioch. It is a great honor to bear this name, for it means that we are beloved children of God and are the heirs of God, if we live good lives according to our name. We received this name in Baptism, when we were cleansed from sin, and adorned with sanctifying grace, when we were re ceived into the bosom of the Church and therefore became chil dren of God and heirs of His kingdom. “Behold,” said St. John, “what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed, that we should be called, and should be, the sons of God” (I John viii, 33). The children of the world consider themselves fortunate, and pride themselves, if they are descended from a king or a princely family. The Pharisees boasted of their descent from Abraham. “We are the seed of Abraham,” they said to our Saviour (John viii, 33). Our descent and Christian nobleness is far more distinguished. We can say: “God is our Father through Christ,” and with confidence say: “Abba, Father” (Rom. viii, 15). See what love our Father has shown us that we are called and are children of God. “For the spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God, and if sons heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. vii. 16, 17). Can there be a greater honor and dignity than to be a Christian ? Do we properly esteem this honor and dig nity? Do we live as Christians? We bear the name of Christ and hence must endeavor in our thoughts and actions to become like Him. For He has said : “I have given you an example, that you may do as I have.” Do we conform ourselves to the example of Christ ? Are we devoutly disposed as He was ? Do we, disregarding everything else, strive for the kingdom of heaven ? Are we gentle, humble, patient, kind, pure and just as Christ was? Alas, there are so many that are Christian in name only ; they possess few or none of the virtues in which Christ set the example, and which we should make our own. Can such hope to become heirs of God and dwell with Christ ? Must they not rather fear that their end will be eternal destruction ?
If heretofore we have not been grateful to God for the grace of being called to the true faith, if we have even brought dishonor and shame upon our Christian name, let us in future thank God for this grace and value the honor and dignity which the name Christian be stows. Let us turn our attention to Christ, “the author and finisher of faith” (Heb. xii, 2) and endeavor to follow His footsteps, so that in the hereafter we may also bear His image on our souls and share His kingdom for all eternity. Amen.
Rev. F. Heffner, O. Praem., Short Sermons for Low Masses For All the Sundays of the Year(1906), Volume II.