Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Memorial of Saint Boniface, bishop and martyr

(2 Peter 3:12-15a.17-18; Mark 12:13-17)

Saint Boniface confronted many challenges in a long career. He was an English monk who served for a while as both a resident scholar and administrator of an abbey school. At forty he became a missionary in what is now northern Netherlands and eventually was named by Pope Gregory the Great as bishop of Germany where he was to preach to non-Christians. He baptized thousands, ordained and organized the hierarchy of Germany, and founded a famous monastery at Fulda. He was martyred as he was preparing to confirm German converts. The gospel today pictures Jesus in Jerusalem as facing the first of a similar series of challenges.

Jesus is confronted by an odd mixture of Pharisees and Herodians. His adversaries place him on the horns of the ancient dilemma of who is owed allegiance—God or the state. Jesus sagely calls for a middle way. He tells his challengers that people should pay the state its proper tribute and God His. In other words, they are to keep the two distinct. There is no inherent conflict.

Sometimes, however, the interests of Church and state come to loggerheads. Such is the case in the present standoff between the Obama Administration and the Catholic Church on the issue of mandating the payment of health insurance that includes contraceptive services. Of course, the Church gives a priority to God’s law. It seems hardly possible that it may pay for a morally offensive service.