Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost A.D. 2019
“Render therefore to Caesar the
things that are Caesar' s;
and to God, the things that are God' s."
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
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Thou art a true speaker—neither carest
thou or any man,
for thou dost not regard the person of men.”
It may help to know that the tribute
coin, with Caesar's image on it, was not in general circulation in
Israel. The Jews did not make images of anyone—they were concerned with
the possibility of idolatry—so their coins generally had plants
inscribed on them. They had to go to the money changers and obtain a
coin that was forbidden to them in order to pay the tax to Caesar.
Clearly, this imposition belittled their religion as well as their
The Pharisees were the descendants of the
Machabees—brave men who lived about 150 years before Christ, and who
defended the Jewish religion and it's Temple against the persecution of
the Seleucid king's. Famous for the deeds of their ancestors, they were
people who wanted to appear to be among the best citizens of Israel.
The Herodians were disciples of Herod
Antipas, the son of another named Herod, who had worked his way into
favor with the Roman Invaders, and ruled as their “tetrarch,” a sort of
“king,” governing Roman interests in Galilee. Herod's father was the
one who had so many boy children put to death, to insure that the Christ
did not displace him from his throne.
It should be obvious that the Pharisees
and the Herodians were trying to trap Jesus—getting Him in trouble with
the Romans if He argued against paying tribute to the Roman emperor—and
getting Him in trouble with the priests of the Temple if He recognized a
right of the Roman Invaders to collect taxes from the Jewish people.
The Pharisees, in particular, often drew our Lord's criticism for their
hypocrisy, and here we find them at it again. “You do not respect the
person's of men,” was a hypocritical flattery—they were saying, in
effect, that Jesus in His perfect honesty, would not be afraid to give
an honest pronouncement on the tribute question. But all along they
knew that a “yes” or “no” answer to the question would entrap Jesus one
way or the other.
Ultimately, Jesus would be put to death,
under the appearance of Roman law, by a joint action of Jews and
Romans. It can be dangerous to be a teller of truth, or even a doer of
good. But our Lord was such a man—and He gives an example for our
imitation. We should never be deterred from doing good or telling the
truth just because someone will be (or pretend to be) offended by the
goodness of our action or the truth of our words. There is objective
truth and objective morality. These things come from God Himself—they
are not matters of opinion or personal preference. We would be wrong to
criticize someone for their simple opinions or preferences—other people
have no reason to agree that blue is the most beautiful of the colors,
or that sausages are the tastiest dish! But they do have an obligation
to recognize the sanctity of God, and the immorality of things like
murder, theft, and adultery. Even without the benefit of God's
Revelations, these things should be known through natural human reason.
We should not be ashamed to do good. For
example, no one should refrain from making the sign of the Cross to
pray, or be ashamed to quietly bless our food before dinner in a public
setting. No one should be ashamed to help a beggar.
Of course our private and inconsequential
opinions should be kept to ourselves. But, at the same time, we must
not be afraid to “speak truth to a hostile power.” Perhaps less
threatening is the idea of voting regularly to insure that our
government is run according to Christian principles. Sometimes this
will mean coming to the aid of the defenseless, or at least enlisting
the authorities to help the defenseless.
A few days ago, I came across a quotation
that put this in perspective. An Indian lady named Arundhati Roy
The trouble [with injustice] is that once you see it, you can’t unsee
it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as
political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way,
Generally speaking, we must strive to
avoid personal violence. Keep our Lord's example clearly in mind. The
Price of Peace was indeed someone who spoke the truth, no matter who
might be listening.
“Thou art a true speaker--neither carest Thou or any man,
for Thou dost not regard the person of men.”