Commentary on the Gospel of

Mike Cherney - Creighton University's Physics Department



The first reading considers Tobit’s physical blindness. The psalm extols the rewards bestowed on the righteous. The Gospel is the familiar account of Jesus’ response concerning the payment of Roman taxes.

This is the first time that I can recall encountering the Book of Tobit. Tobit is an honest and just man who is committed to obeying God’s commandments. In today’s passage, Tobit becomes blind and must rely on the generosity of a relative and eventually support from his wife. Here we have another case of bad things happening to a good person. I can imagine his frustration. In this passage, Tobit becomes aware of something that does not seem right. Although his wife has explained the situation, Tobit questions his wife’s account and in the process earns the ire of his spouse. As someone whose research career depended on things being done right, I know that most people do a good job most of the time, but if everything is to be done right, I know that I could be perceived as annoying checking on the work of others. I can understand Tobit’s questioning. I can relate to this experience.

The full Psalm in its original literary form has a very different style from what we read following its editing and translation. The Psalm in Hebrew would have a poetic style where each line begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. The Psalm describes the benefits that will be given to the just man. Returning to Tobit, I can clearly see how his situation does not match the expectation foreseen by the Psalm.

If I imagine myself as a member of the crowd surrounding Jesus, I can feel an empathetic twinge in my stomach when Jesus encounters a hostile question. If he comes out in support of the taxes paid to an occupying regime, he will have to deal with the indignation of his countrymen. If he rejects paying the tax, he invites wrath of the political powers. Jesus gives a clever response. He takes a question that seems to have only two possible answers and creates a third response, a response that shifts the focus. If I was in that crowd, I would have been impressed by and a bit jealous of Jesus’ wit.

My prayer today is a consideration of how I use language.

Dear Lord,
My responses have an impact on other people.
I want to do what is right.
Grant me the wisdom to communicate in ways that do not become tiresome to others.
Help me to avoid limiting myself to only black or white alternatives.
Give me the openness to recognize the diversity of dispositions of those around me.
Allow me to put forth the creative possibilities that refocus the direction toward Your will.


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