LECTIO DIVINA: XXIX Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A


Translated by Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Mt. 22:15-21

A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.

We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.

Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,4) Amen.

B. Lectio.

With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.

 Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

C. Meditatio.

Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

“What did the Lord do? He broke their teeth in the mouth. Why does he say ‘in the mouth’? So that the words of their mouth may return against them: he obliged them to say with their own mouth the sentence against them. They wanted to accuse him on the tax to Caesar. Well then, he did not answer if it was licit to pay the tax or not. He wanted to crush the teeth with which they were furious to bite him; but he wanted to do it in their own mouth. If he had said: “Yes, pay the tribute to Caesar”, they would have accused him of humiliating the Jewish people, making it tributary. In fact, humiliated by their sin, they were paying the tax, as it was already predicted in the Law. They were saying, “If he commands us to pay the tax, we will arrest him for cursing our nation. But if he says: Do not pay, we will arrest him for going against us who are submissive to Caesar.” This double trap they put to the Lord, to make him fall into it. But whom did they encounter? Someone who knew how to crush their teeth in their own mouth. Show me the coin of the tax, he said. Why do you tempt me, you hypocrites? Are you doubtful about paying the tax? Do you want to work with justice? You seek advice on justice? If in truth you speak of justice, judge with rectitude, sons of men. But now you say one thing and you judge another: you are hypocrites; why do you tempt me? I am going to crush your teeth in your own mouths: show me a coin. And they showed it to him. Jesus did not say: It is Caesar’s; but asks them: ‘Whose is it?’ so that their teeth shall be pulverized in their own mouth. When he asked them whose were the image and inscription in the denarius, they replied, ‘Caesar’s.’ With this answer he breaks their teeth in their own mouth. You have already answered, you have already broken your teeth in your own mouth. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. The emperor seeks his image, give it back to him! God seeks his own image, give it back to him! Let not Caesar lose his coins because of you; let not God lose his image which is in you. And they found nothing to say to him in reply. They were sent to accuse him and they returned saying that no one could answer him. Why? Because their teeth were crushed in their own mouth” (en. Ps. 57:14).

On the image of Caesar and of God, St. Augustine comments thus: “In the image of God one seeks the truth, not the vanity. We re-sculpture the image according to which we were created through love of the truth, and we give back to our Caesar his own image. You have heard this in the answer of the Lord to the Jews who were tempting him: Why are you tempting me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin of the tax, i.e., the image and its inscription. Show me what you pay, what you prepare, what is demanded of you, show it to me. They presented him a denarius, and he asked whose was the image and the inscription. They responded: of Caesar. This Caesar also seeks his image. The Caesar does not want that what he commanded would perish and neither does God want that what he created would perish. The Caesar, my brothers, did not produce the coin, those who mint it produce it; the artisans are ordered to produce it; he commanded his workers to produce it. The image was engraved in the coin; on the coin is the image of Caesar found. After all, what others engraved is sought:  one treasure coins, another does not want to be without it. The coin of Christ is the man. In him is the image of Christ, in him is the name of Christ, the gift of Christ and the obligations imposed by Christ” (s. 90, 10). 

D. Oratio.

With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.

a. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God”  (Mt. 22:21).

  • How can you apply this statement to you life?
  • Why do you believe it is important to distinguish what belongs to Caesar from what belongs to God?

b. “The coin of Christ is man. In him is the image of Christ, in him is the name of Christ” (s. 90, 10).

  • What does it mean to you: to be the coin of Christ?
  • If the human being is like a coin, what is engraved in your heart, to whom does it belong?

c. Pray with this statement: “I am your coin, engrave in my interior your image” (s. 90, 10).

E. Contemplatio.

I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.

a. Contemplate your own heart and imagine that it is a coin. Contemplate the different aspects that this coin has. Contemplate now what image it has, and ask God to engrave his own image in your heart. Contemplate how God  lovingly engraves and mints his own image in your interior. Contemplate this image and ask God to have this image always impressed in your heart, never to be erased. Contemplate and give thanks.

b. Contemplate how Christ wants to engrave his own image in your heart. Contemplate how you open the door of your heart to let him in, and how Christ with love and affection engraves his own image within your heart. Contemplate this image of God, and ask him that you be able to always keep it within you. Contemplate and adore.

F. Communicatio.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially of being coins of God, who in your interior bear the image of Christ. The following points can help you share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.

  • What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
  • How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does this text put before me?
  • What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
  • What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?

Final Prayer of St. Augustine.

Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).

“Return to your heart. See in it what you may feel belongs to God: there is the image of God” (Io. eu. tr. 18, 10).

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Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.