‘Give Caesar His Coins; Give God Yourselves’

Lent 2014: Readings from Augustine

We read in the Psalm: “The light of your countenance, Lord, is stamped upon us” (Ps 4:7). We are God’s money, but like a coin we have strayed from the treasury. What was stamped on us has been rubbed away by error. He has come to reform it because he is the one who formed it. He too is asking for his money just as Caesar seeks his. That’s why he said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Mt 22:21). Give Caesar his coins; give God yourselves. Then will the truth be represented in you. (In Ioannem Tr. 40, 9: PL 35, 1691)

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This is brilliant. The coins with the face rubbed off. One knows just what he means. And that wonderful notion that God stamped his countenance upon us.

"Give Caesar his coins: give God yourselves."

I wonder as Lent goes on, and (true confessions) I continue to fail at various resolutions, whether one possible tack is to go back to the first principle that the purpose of Lent is not to accomplish some task we've set ourselves, but to gather up the will to give ourselves to God. In which case, even failure can be a moment of grace if it wakes us up to our real condition.

Giving ourselves to God at Easter (at the renewal of baptism at the Easter Vigil for instance), might be prefaced by a lot of lesser acts of giving ourselves to God through these weeks. I am going to think about that.

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.