Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 18, 2020
Deacon Anthony J. Cincotta
Readings: Book of the Prophet Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10;
First Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians 1:1-5b; Matthew 22:15-21
In today’s Gospel narrative, the Pharisees inquired to Jesus about His civic duty. They asked Him, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus answered them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” We can surmise that if our Lord said 'yes', the people would resent and reject Him due to the fact that nobody likes to pay taxes, especially to a foreign government that has occupied their country. For the Jews, it is an insult to their religion and blasphemy against God because they held that only Yahweh is their King. Their nation had the strictest of laws, including that if they paid taxes to an earthly king it would confirm the validity of that kingship which was an insult to God.
On the other hand if Jesus said 'no' to the Pharisees, they would report Him to the Roman government as a revolutionary person or even an insurrectionist. The Roman government would then arrest and put Him in prison. However, Jesus did not fall in their trap. Instead, He points out that we are citizens of two worlds: the world we see, and the world that is unseen. As such, we have duties in both worlds—that is, to other people (or government entity) and to God. Our duties to a person include not only what we owe to our government like paying taxes, but also what we owe to others. This includes taking care of our families with nutritious food, proper health care, education of our children, and so forth. It is our Christian duty to be responsible citizens and follow Jesus advice to the Pharisees.
As Christians, we are also citizens whose goal are to become citizens of heaven.
There are matters of religion and religious principles in which the responsibility of a Christian is to God. As Christians, we owe to God praise and thanksgiving, honor and glory. In other words, we owe to God worship because He is ALL GOOD, and He is the source of all and all that we are.
It is wrong to think that Jesus is referring to a two-fold diverse allegiance—one to the civil authorities and one to God. All authority comes from God! If a government is or has been properly established, it wields authority over its citizens in the name of God. If the citizens obey the just laws of the land, they are giving homage to God and offering Him a true sign of worship. If they pay just taxes, they are, likewise, giving honor and glory to God. But if they evade just and reasonable taxes and the laws imposed by the government, their offense is against their government.
Finally, Jesus does not say anything about the boundaries of the two types of duties. That is for one's conscience to ponder. It can be so that these duties and responsibilities would not clash with each other. This is due to another gift from God— FREE WILL.
Question of the Day: Do you actively cooperate with the civil officials in obeying the just laws of our elected officials?
Prayer: Loving Father, I wish to belong to You in body and soul. Let me serve You always with total fidelity, so that my actions may find favor in Your sight. Amen.