29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 22:15-21
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s
Stung by Jesus’ criticism in the preceding parables, the Pharisees try to trip Him up by posing a tricky political question.
Roman taxation had been a “hot-button” issue for more than two decades. In 6 A.D., a Galilean had sparked revolt over such submission, partly for religious reasons, and as recently as 17 A.D., the region had asked Rome for tax relief.
The Pharisees believe that they have cornered Jesus into adopting either a pro-Roman or anti-Roman stance, forcing Him to risk His popularity or court trouble with the authorities.
But Jesus foils their plot by simply taking a stand upon the very definition of justice: “the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor” (Catechism paragraph 1807).
The coin has Caesar’s image and inscription, and so belongs to him. Similarly, we have our own civic obligations (1915): “It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society” (2239).
Yet Caesar is not the highest authority (450); God is, and we must repay Him what belongs to Him – our very selves, made in His image – by living in accordance with His will.
In this way, our “Christian conscience” (912) necessarily shapes how we take part in public life. As lay faithful, we have a special vocation to influence the political, social, and economic orders in conformity with the Gospel (898-99, 2442).
Question for reflection: How does my Catholic faith influence my civic life?