29th Sunday of the Year – A

Dear friends in Christ,
The story of the Pharisees and the Herodians in today’s Gospel asking Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax
to Caesar or not?” happened in the last week of Jesus’ life. By now in Matthew’s Gospel, their hostility toward Jesus had been
heated up intensely, and they were trying to entrap him in speech so to destroy him.
Knowing their intention, Jesus told them to show him a coin and then he himself asked the question, “Whose image is it on
the coin?” When they replied, “Caesar’s”, he said, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
With this answer Jesus shut his adversaries down and pointed out the truth that what mattered most was serving and pleasing God.
This Gospel’s story should concern us a lot today too. Jesus is not just asking us about the coin, rather he asks us questions
like: what image do we bear or want to bear; and whom do we want to belong to, God or Caesar? Clearly, he means that if we are
dedicated first and foremost to the things of this world – money, power, families, groups, government, – then we belong to Caesar
and not to God.
We tend to see in this passage an argument for the separation of church and state. But this is not Jesus’ concern. He does not
give a simple answer about how to divide our loyalties between God and the world. The First Commandment of God forbids
dividing our loyalties between God and anyone or anything else. There is nothing which ‘belongs to Caesar’ only but not to God.
There is no action in life in which we can serve the world as if God were not involved. In
fact, any action that we cannot perform as a service to God, we should not perform at all.
This simple command, “Repay to God what belongs to God,” tells that we owe to
God this service of bringing all things and all people, ourselves included, back to God. This
means a conversion of heart. For what matters most for us Christians is to please God. God
must always have highest priority in all.
Fr. Joe