29th Sunday – Year A

  • First Reading: Isaiah 45:4-6
  • Response: Give the Lord glory and honor.
  • Psalm: 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
  • Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5B
  • Gospel Acclamation: Shine like lights in the world as you hold on to the word of life.
  • Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21

Homilies:

Caesar and God by Bishop Barron

  • Today’s Gospel contains one of Jesus’ greatest one-liners ever.
  • Jesus does NOT play the game. He refuses to situate himself on the horns of this dilemma. He sees through this trap. Same thing with us. People want to draw us into their games. Simply don’t cooperate in this bait, this trap.

  • Jesus gives BOTH AND response to either or. Spiritual and theological questions, more often than not, invite the both and answer. Religion and politics. Church and state. Good example of this.

 

Profile of a Catholic Politician by Fr. Cantalamessa

  • It is no longer either Caesar or God, but Caesar AND God, each on his appropriate level. It is the beginning of the separation of religion and politics, which until then had been inseparable among all peoples and regimes.
  • The Jews were used to understanding the future reign of God founded by the Messiah as a theocracy, that is, as a government directed by God ruling over the whole earth through his people. But now the words of Christ reveal a kingdom of God that is in this world but that is not of this world, that travels on a different wavelength and that, for this reason, can coexist with every other political regime, whether it be sacral or secular.
  • Here we see two qualitatively different sovereignties of God over the world:
  • (1) the spiritual sovereignty that constitutes the Kingdom of God and that is exercised directly in Christ, & (2) the temporal and political sovereignty that God exercises indirectly, entrusting it to man’s free choice and the play of secondary causes.
  • Caesar and God, however, are not put on the same level, because Caesar too depends on God and must answer to him. Thus “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” means: “Give to Caesar what God himself wants to be given to Caesar.” God is sovereign over all, including Caesar. We are not divided between two loyalties; we are not forced to serve “two masters.”
  • The Christian is free to obey the state, but he is also free to resist the state when it goes against God and his law. In such a case it is not legitimate to invoke the principle about the obedience that is owed to superiors, as war criminals often do when they are on trial. Before obeying men, in fact, you must first obey God and your own conscience. You cannot give your soul, which belongs to God, to Caesar.St. Paul was the first to draw practical conclusions from this teaching of Christ. He writes: “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God. … Whoever resists authority opposes the order that God has appointed. … This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities who are in charge of this are ministers of God” (Romans 13:1 ff.).

    Paying appropriately levied taxes is for the Christian (but also for every honest person) a duty of justice and therefore an obligation of conscience. Guaranteeing order, commerce and a whole series of other services, the state gives the citizen something to which it has a right for compensation in return, precisely to be able to continue these same services. Christian cooperation in building a just and peaceful society does not stop at paying taxes; it must also extend itself to the promotion of common values such as the family, the defense of life, solidarity with the poor, peace. There is also another sphere in which Christians must make a contribution to politics. It does not have to do with the content of politics so much as its methods, its style. Christians must help to remove the poison from the climate of contentiousness in politics, bring back greater respect, composure and dignity to relationships between parties. Respect for one’s neighbor, clemency, capacity for self-criticism: These are the traits that a disciple of Christ must have in all things, even in politics. It is undignified for a Christian to give himself over to insults, sarcasm, brawling with his adversaries. If, as Jesus says, those who call their brother “stupid” are in danger of Gehenna, what then must we say about a lot of politicians?

 

Commentaries:

Brant Pitre

  • They try to trap Jesus into a yes or no answer that would get him into trouble with either His Jewish contemporaries (if he said yes) or with the Romans (if he said no). But you can’t trap Jesus. You’re always going to end up being trapped yourself.
  • Jesus’ response = “show me the coin used for the tax”
  • Denarius = we have some today from Jesus’ time. From around A.D. 14 – A.D. 37, the Emperor, the Caesar, was named Tiberius, and he produced many of these coins that were stamped with his profile. On these coins was an inscription — this is really interesting and you can actually find pictures of this on the internet today — which read “Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus.”
  • 2 problems = graven image of Roman emperor + claim to be son of God.
  • Although Jesus is giving permission to pay taxes to Caesar, He really wants to say to the Pharisees that you can give your money to Caesar, but you need to give your life, yourself, to God.
  • “Head” or “likeness” = eikōn. “Icon” in English. Genesis 1:26-27 – same word – man and woman were made in the eikōn of God. They are literally icons of the creator.
  • 1st reading as background to Jesus’ riddle = Isaiah 45 is one of the most explicit passages in the Old Testament that affirms what we call monotheism. In other words, the idea that there is only one God, and that the Lord is God. Addressed to King Cyrus too, who many wanted to regard as a king. Also, Responsorial Psalm 96 – “he is to be revered above all gods” – they are “idols”
  • Meaning = live peaceably under authority + pray for rulers…

 

St. Lawrence of Brindisi (d. AD 1619): We Bear the Image and Likeness of God

“To each, he says, must be given what belongs to him. This, surely, is a judgment fully of heavenly wisdom and instruction. For it teaches that authority is twofold, having an earthly and human aspect, and a heavenly and divine aspect. It teaches that we owe a twofold duty of obedience: to human laws and to the law of God. The coin bearing Caesar’s likeness and inscription must be given to Caesar, and the one stamped with the divine image and likeness must be given to God. We bear the imprint of your glorious face, O Lord. We are made in the image and likeness of God. So you, O Christian, because you are a human being, are God’s tribute money—a little coin bearing the image and likeness of the divine emperor”. (Lawrence of Brindisi, Opera Omnia 8.336; trans. E. Barnecutt)

 

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