After Pentecost, we return to Ordinary Time. It is not the same as our usual understanding of ordinary. It is the liturgical season that takes us through the life of Jesus Christ, with a special focus on the time of his earthly ministry. Because of that focus, it is anything but ordinary in the usual sense of the word.
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus questioned about whether Jewish people should pay the census tax to Caesar or not. It is an attempt at entrapment. Imagine trying to entrap God. Jesus, of course, gives the famous answer: ““Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”
As they lead into this question, these Pharisees and Herodians say to Jesus, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.”
I remember seeing a story about a man who had converted to Catholicism. He told God that he realized that all he needed in this life was the Eucharist. If we were to be left alone with only that, it would be enough. Unfortunately, he ended up being tested as he lost his job and his family abandoned him. In the end, he was left alone with only the Eucharist. And it was enough.
Are we too concerned with what others think? Especially with what they think about us. It is not that we should be totally oblivious to how we are perceived by others. But are we inordinately concerned? Or are we able to follow Christ alone? Can we avoid being whipsawed by the whims of others’ opinions and simply focus on doing the will of God in our lives?
We must be sensitive to others. We must be aware of, and responsive to, their concerns. But we cannot be inordinately concerned with their opinions of us. We cannot allow other’s opinions to completely set our course in life. Our focus on others should not be on what they think about us. Rather, it should be on how we can do the will of God and respond to their needs with great love and sensitivity. As Christians, we pursue life as a path of virtue leading to Christ and not as a continual popularity contest.
It is very tempting to do otherwise. Can we avoid the temptation?