Yesterday I was riding in my car and flipping through the stations hoping to find something good on the radio when something caught my ear. It was a minister preaching on the Book of Revelation and how the end was near and we all needed to prepare because the Second Coming was going to be in the next few years. While I wonder how he has this knowledge since the Lord Jesus Himself said that only the Father knew the day and hour, there was a truth in the message he was preaching – the need to be prepared for the Lord’s coming. Saint Peter’s tells us that the reason that the Second Coming has not happened is for our salvation; the Father holds off so that we might be able to prepare for His coming and not be caught off guard but instead be saved. We see in the letter of Peter, then, a call to always be prepared by persevering in the faith.
We can see this idea of being prepared in today’s gospel reading as well if we look closely. We hear Jesus tell the Herodians the well-known phrase “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Asking for a denarius – a roman coin – he establishes that the coin belongs to Caesar because it bears his image. What Jesus leaves unspoken for his hearers to figure out is that what belongs to God, what bears God’s image is humanity. All of us are made in God’s image and by our baptism we are more conformed to His likeness. We then see that Jesus is saying that Caesar can have the coins but God should get the whole person – He should be our first love, our first concern.
Saint Justin, whose feast we celebrate today, is a witness of this focus on loving God first and being concerned for Him above all things. A second-century Christian, Justin had converted from paganism and became a zealous defender of the Christian faith, writing several defenses of the faith to Jewish and pagan leaders of the day. Faced with the choice of offering worship to pagan gods or suffering death, he proudly professed his Christian faith and went joyfully to the place of his martyrdom. I pray that we, like Saint Justin, might have God as our first love and our first concern, because then we would surely be well-prepared for the Lord’s return – whenever it may come. Amen.