To live an authentic life, it is important to seek to understand ourselves. Sometimes we act in ways where our actions are not always what they seem, even to us. Sometimes we do one thing, but the reason for doing the one thing is for something other motive or reason. For example, we might act nicely toward someone, but we may only do so to get something we want. Motivations arise from deep in the heart. And we always need to be asking God to help us to be honest, especially with ourselves.
Why is it we do what we do? Developing self-awareness so that we can understand our motives is not always an easy thing. In fact, sometimes it is necessary to have the help of others. Such is the case for Tobit in the first reading. He does not trust his wife, and he gets angry at her. She doubts not only her story, but far worse, he doubts her character as well. She is not only lying, but he also accuses her of stealing. But what is really going on?
I would suggest that one challenge is that Tobit is angry, but the object of his anger is not what he thinks it is. He is not angry at his wife, but really is angry at something else. Maybe he is really angry at being blind, or at God, or even at himself. Maybe he is angry that he is dependent upon his wife. Whatever the reason, his lack of self-awareness is taken out at his wife.
The gospel is similar. The question is couched in compliments for Jesus, but the end, or purpose of the question is a trick. They are hoping to catch Jesus in a statement that makes it appear he is either disloyal to Caesar, or to Judaism. It is a tricky answer. Stating a desire to pay the tax could be seen as an admission of his acceptance of the Romans. Giving his loyalty to God may be seen as a desire to be a traitor. Both were high crimes for which he could pay a high price.
In order to help us know what to do, we seek out wise persons. We may see a therapist to help us to face honestly the difficulties in life. We may ask a friend for advice. Most importantly, we may seek out spiritual guidance by making regular use of the sacrament of confession. We may need to find a spiritual director to help us in our attempt to grow in our relationship with God.
Perhaps it is the gospel that helps us with an important goal, namely, to avoid hypocrisy. Not becoming a hypocrite demands the type of honesty that confession or spiritual direction (or usually both) gives us to live honestly. Sin is an attempt to be dishonest with God, which is foolish, as God knows all about us. Honesty is a gift that leads us to a virtuous life, especially when we can be honest about our lives with God.
Be honest with God. Be honest with yourself. Because when this is done, when we are honest, we indeed find it possible to grow into a life of fulfillment as we become better selves.