The Word of God is ever ancient and ever new! I’m sometimes surprised and often consoled when reflecting on the daily and Sunday scriptures in the liturgical year to find that the Word of God seems to speak directly to our current life experiences. Perhaps this is God’s way of getting our attention in a world cluttered with information from the news media, floating in cyber space or in the “cloud”!
Today’s gospel is a significant example. St. Matthew describes the “trap” that the Pharisees were setting when they asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar. If He were to respond that the tax was not lawful, he would have been considered a revolutionary and a threat to the Romans. On the other hand, if Jesus said the tax was lawful, they would brand him as a collaborator with the oppressive imperial regime! Jesus quickly intuited this collusion among the Pharisees and Herodians, once absolute enemies, and “recognized their bad Faith”. Seeing right through the trap, instead of falling for it, Jesus gives a simple yet profound answer, one that also asks us where we stand. Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. The reality is evident. Everything belongs to God: all of Creation – the plants and animals of the earth, the stars of the sky, the sea and everything in it. And of course, God’s people, all of us. All creation gives glory to God. How much more should we give glory and honor to our Creator? In other words, we need to act justly following God’s Word and reaching out to care for all God’s loved ones. Repaying Caesar doesn’t just mean paying taxes so that our local and national governments support all God’s people. Rather, the way we “repay to God” affects deeply the way we “repay to Caesar.” It should move us to find ways to care for the poor and homeless, victims of violence and natural disasters, assist refugees, the sick, the elderly and provide for our children! When we “repay to God,” we will be moved to work towards transforming our world so that all will live in peace and prosperity.
The question asked of Jesus to trap Him became an opportunity for Him to proclaim God’s justice and mercy for all. And that certainly speaks to our current life experiences!