GOD AND CAESAR
Everybody operates from beliefs that are not logical conclusions from the application of scientific method. In our western societies however if it appears to some that what you believe comes from a committed religious faith perspective then you can an object of suspicion and your views ruled inadmissible in conversation in the market place, office setting or areas of recreation. Today’s gospel does not provide an easy solution to this prejudice but gives us a marker for being at home in our world where we are subject to a variety of authorities and powers, secular and religious.
Tackling a problem can see unlikely partnerships come into existence. The cooperative effort of the Pharisees and the Herodians (the players in today’s gospel) to bring Jesus down is a case in point. The Pharisees and the Herodians make odd bed-fellows. Why? The Pharisees were the first century equivalent of very well-educated laymen completely dedicated to enhancing and preserving Jewish life and belief. Given that starting point they were not supporters of Roman occupation. They wanted their land to be governed by Jews, not Romans and their collaborators. The Herodians, on the other hand, collaborated with the Romans. They were the supporters of King Herod whose reign relied on the Romans.
For both groups Jesus was a dangerous problem. The Pharisees could see his approach undermining what they held to being important for being a good Jew and consequently their authority. For the Herodians Jesus was a potential trouble-maker who could bring the wrath of the Romans down on all and sundry. To silence him they put the question of the taxes. If he says “yes” that payment of the tax is permissible then he is seen to support the Romans which will put him off side with the people. If he says “no” payment should not be done, then he stands directly opposed to the Romans who could arrest him as a revolutionary.
Jesus sees the trap and turns the tables. Seeing the coin he says this is Caesar’s, so give it to Caesar. Then he adds but give to God what belongs to God. God is central to everything. God is the source of all authority, secular and religious. Secular authority is to be obeyed but it must respect God’s values: the dignity of the human person and the common good. God works through all kinds of authority (remember Cyrus in the first reading, a non-Jew who was the one through whom God worked). We live in one way in two worlds, a secular one and a religious one, but there is only one source of authority and that is God revealed by Jesus. So be wholeheartedly involved in both worlds and do not be sidelined by any prejudice.
Fr Adrian Farrelly
|Oct 20, 2014||29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 19.10.2014||Listen||Download|