2 Pt 3:12-15a, 17-18
Today’s first reading from the second letter of Peter says, ‘Think of our Lord’s patience as your opportunity to be saved’. The Lord’s patience is our opportunity. When I was young, I used to hear a little jingle, ‘Patience is a virtue, keep it if you can, always in a woman, never in a man’. Perhaps there is some truth in that little saying!
Patience is certainly a virtue and one we appreciate when we are shown it. Patience is the ability to wait on people. Jesus once spoke a parable about a barren fig tree that the landowner wanted to cut down.
However, the landowner’s gardener was a much more patient man. He persuaded his master to leave the fig tree for another tree during which he would tend to it to ensure it bore fruit the following year. Jesus might have seen something of himself in that gardener. He was patient with people, including his own disciples. So many times, they failed to grasp what he was trying to say to them, but he never gave up on them. Even when Peter, the leading disciple, denied him, he didn’t give up on him.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus’ patience is put to the test. The Pharisees and the Herodians asked him what seemed like a serious question, ‘Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’
In reality, they were not looking for information but, as the gospel reading says, they were trying to catch Jesus out. They weren’t being sincere and, according to the gospel reading, Jesus saw through their hypocrisy. Yet, he was patient with them, asking them for a coin from their pockets and declaring that Caesar should be given back what belongs to him, but, more importantly, God should be given what belongs to God. What belongs to God according to Jesus?
Just a few verses later in Mark’s gospel, Jesus will answer that question, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’. It is only God, and God’s Son Jesus, who is worthy of our total loving loyalty – certainly not Caesar. Jesus’ patience towards his opponents on this occasion was their opportunity to learn a vital lesson for life. The Lord’s patience is always our opportunity.
Fr. John Peter