St. Boniface was sent by Pope Gregory II to reform the Church in Germany, which had been heavily negatively influenced by the forces of paganism. He sought to restore the fidelity of the German clergy to their bishops, in union with Rome. He also sought to build up houses of prayer throughout the region, in the form of Benedictine monasteries. While he had much success, in the Frankish kingdom, he met great problems because of lay interference in bishops’ elections, the worldliness of the clergy and lack of papal control. During a final mission to the Frisians, he and 53 companions were massacred while he was preparing converts for Confirmation. St. Boniface has been called the apostle to Germany.
One of the great problems in the German Church at Boniface’s time was the worldliness of the clergy. The caution against getting too caught up in the things of this world is well-taken for all of us. Jesus said as much in today’s Gospel reading. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but do not withhold from God the things that are of God. Namely, we owe God our worship and faithfulness, and a spirit of prayerfulness that should imbue everything that we do.
That sense of prayerfulness inspired Tobit to take care of the dead, against the orders of the government. That was a value for him as a Jew, and it seems second nature for us, since it is a corporal act of mercy. But the government was trying to squash the Jewish way of life, so that’s what is at stake here. We will see Tobit’s story play out in the first reading all this week.
May the spirit of St. Boniface’s efforts to reform the Church keep us all from being caught up in anything that is not of God, and may a spirit of prayerfulness pervade our thoughts, words, and actions this day and always.