THERE’S NO NO-WIN SITUATION FOR JESUS
(A biblical reflection on the 29th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 22 October 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:15-21
First Reading: Isaiah 45:1,4-6; Psalms: Psalm 96:1,3-5,7-10; Second Reading: 1Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle Him in His talk. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for You do not regard the position of men. Tell us, then, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put Me to the test, you hypocrites? Show Me the money for the tax.” And they brought Him a coin. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:15-21 RSV)
In today’s Gospel reading, some of the Pharisees (a group of very strict Jews) along with a few Herodians (Jews who supported King Herod and advocated Jewish cooperation with the Romans) ask Jesus if it is alright to pay tax to the emperor, a question they are sure will get Jesus in trouble because it puts Him in a very delicate situation.
In Jesus’ day, the Romans ruled Palestine and when the Roman emperor declared himself to be the only king of the land he issued his own coins as a sign of his authority. Because the Jews believed God was their King, they were outraged because they thought the emperor was trying to take God’s place. Since using a coin with the emperor’s image on it would have been like acknowledging his sovereignty over them, the Jews minted their own coins and used Roman coins only when they had to (e.g., when paying taxes to the Romans).
Since God was their King, many Jews also believed their tax money should go for the upkeep of God’s house, the Temple in Jerusalem, but the Romans insisted the Jews pay taxes to the emperor, a practice that offended the Jews because they believed the emperor was stealing from God. To make matters even worse, the emperor then used some of this money to fuild pagan temples. You can see that the Jews had good reasons for not wanting to pay taxes to the Romans.
If Jesus responds to the question posed by the Pharisees and Herodians by saying the Jews should not pay taxes, He knows the Herodians will report Him to the Romans and they will arrest Him. However, if He says paying taxes is acceptable, He will offend many of His Jewish followers. It looks like Jesus is in a no-win situation.
Just when He seems trapped, Jesus asks the Pharisees and Herodians whose image is on the coin. Since the answer is “Caesar’s”, Jesus reasons that it then must belong to Caesar and should therefore be returned to him. This story suggests Jesus did not object to paying taxes to the emperor.
(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 102-103.)
Prayer: Holy Spirit, may Your breath blow through the halls of governments everywhere. Move world leaders to place Your concern first, so that every nation on earth will be free to adore You. Amen.
Jakarta, 20 October 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
Luke was born of a pagan family and converted to the true faith. He was the companion of the apostle Paul and wrote his Gospel in accordance with the apostle’s preaching. He also wrote the account of the early days of the Church; up to the time of Paul’s first sojourn in Rome, in the book called “The Acts of the Apostles”.
Luke experienced what it meant to be commissioned by God. He understood that from baptism on, every Christian is called to a mission – to respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, however small or large. It is often thought that mission applies only to those who are young, zealous, vigorous and who are willing to travel to far away places. But this can be a limiting view of God’s grand plan for His Church.
Mission can mean many things. It can mean honoring and praising God right where you are, thanking Him for all He has given us in Christ. It can mean bringing our children to know Jesus. If we are young, it can mean caring for the old. If we are older, it can mean praying for the young. It can involve writing to lawmakers in objection to legislation that is in direct violation of God’s plan. It can mean bearing witness to the lordship of Jesus in our daily lives. Any deed performed in love and joy can be a way of fulfilling our mission here on earth.
We are called to put the service of God first, to remove any obstacles or distractions that might prevent us from fulfilling our call. We are to proclaim the peace of Christ by allowing our example to infect others with the desire to love.
Prayer: Lord God, You chose Saint Luke to reveal the mystery of Your love for the poor in his preaching and his writings. Grant that those who already acknowledge Your name may continue to be one in mind and heart, and that all the nations may see Your salvation. Let me become like St. Luke who was dedicated to Your will and to building up the Body of Christ. We pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 18 October 2017
A Christian Pilgrim