READINGS: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6 / 1 Thess. 1:1-5 / Matthew 22:15-21
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our God is unique and supreme. He, thus, declares: “I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god” (Isaiah 45:5; part of today’s first reading). Though supreme, God made use of a Persian King, Cyrus, to save the Israelites from their captivity in Babylon (cf. first reading). If God who is supreme makes use of Kings or human leaders to achieve a purpose for the good of His people, then, He expects us to cooperate and collaborate with our leaders for the good of our nation. Therefore, while on the one hand, we are obliged to worship the only true God, on the other hand, we have to contribute towards the development of our nation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ succinctly expresses these twin obligations of ours in the statement: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Matt. 22:21; part of today’s gospel reading). Unfortunately, however, some Christians have either misinterpreted or misapplied this statement. For instance:
* Some Christians use this biblical verse to justify why they can serve God while performing some indigenous religious practices which are contrary to the Gospel values.
* Others use it to justify remaining Christians while seeking spiritual protections from unchristian sources or powers.
* Others, too, use it to justify their involvement in social activities which are contrary to the Gospel values.
* Still, some drunkards use this verse to justify why they drink excessively.
Beloved, none of the above applications is right. The statement of Jesus, as we know, was His answer to a question asked by a coalition of Pharisees and Herodians. They asked Jesus whether it was against the Law of Moses for Jews to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor, Caesar. To make His answer clear to the Pharisees and Herodians, Jesus drew their attention to the image and inscription of Caesar on the coin used for paying the Roman taxes (cf. Matt. 22:15-21). Since the payment of lawful taxes is intended for developments beneficial to a community or a nation, the Lord enjoins us all to fulfill this obligation.
On the other hand and more importantly, we should give to God what belongs to Him. Therefore, the statement of Jesus could be re-stated as: “Give to your country what belongs to her, and to God what is due Him”.
Furthermore, while we have noticed above some misinterpretations and misapplications of the statement of Jesus, it could rightly be applied to other aspects of our lives, e.g., marriage, family and work. Firstly, applying it to marriage, we could say that: Give to your wife/husband what is hers/his and to God what is His.
* If a man/woman would give to God what He deserves, he/she should also give to his wife or her husband what is due her/him, otherwise his/her worship is meaningless.
* A man/woman, who makes time for devotion to God, should likewise make time for his wife or her husband.
* A man/woman, who loves God, should likewise love and care for the wife or husband.
Secondly, this goes to children: Give to your parents what is theirs, and to God’s what is His!
* As much as children obey God’s commandments, they should obey and honour their parents.
* As much as children should study God’s Word, they should be studious to please their parents.
Thirdly, parents, give to your children what is their due, and to God what is His!
* Parents: feed, clothe, and shelter your children as much as you contribute to the growth of God’s church.
Fourthly, to the employer: give to your workers what is their due, and to God what is His.
* You may give generously to the church, but if you do not treat workers as fellow human beings, if you do not pay them fairly, and their conditions of work is poor, your worship of God is
Fifthly, to workers: give to your employers what is their due, and to God what is His.
* You can be a very active church member (attending Masses every day), have daily quiet time, be very prayerful, and yet if you do not respect your employer, work diligently and avoid stealing or embezzlement, your worship of God might be in vain.
CONCLUSION: Beloved, as we give to God what is His and to our country, spouse, parents, children, workers and employers what belongs to them, may we (in turn) enjoy what is due us from others and ultimately receive an eternal reward from God. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis