The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
By Dr. David M. Thomas for CFM
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 22:15-21
Is there any connection between politics and religion? This is a major topic of debate in most countries. Fifty years ago, social philosophers noted a general decrease in religious activity and observance and predicted that as the years passed, the connection between religion and politics would disappear. They were wrong. The rise of radical religious fervour around the world is evident.
In the time of Jesus, Rome ruled his part of the world and levied heavy taxes on the people. When Jesus was asked about a possible conflict in obligations to the state (Rome) and to God, he was being led into a kind of trap. If he said, pay taxes only to Rome, he would lose his religious reputation. If he said the opposite, he could be accused of treason.
This gospel records a scene in the gospels where Biblical commentators mention the brilliance of Jesus. He came up with the perfect answer. Pay to Caesar what is his (which was a tax) and to God, what was due God. This basically meant everything else. It was the kind of response that quieted his questioners.
But we should seriously think about his words. If we reflect on what we owe God, and we are honest and open-eyed, we would have to conclude that we owe to our loving God everything (well, most everything). We owe God by the very fact that we are here, existing right now, alive to all the joys and possibilities offered to us each day, where we can help to make life better for all. And don’t overlook that we are also promised eternal happiness with God. We all can put together a long list of the “blessings” we have been given, past, present and future. Try it!
Now what does God ask in return? Here’s something to think about. Nothing and everything! Before you think I am off-my-rocker (whatever that means), let me explain. Our faith proclaims that God is eternal, totally independent of the vast creation that God has made and needs nothing from us to be happy. Mostly, God wants our love for sure, and wants us to help those who live among us who are in need. But we do not ever have to include on our list of needy ones, the name of God. And if we love others with the kind of love God has for them, then we will give to God what God desires.
©David M. Thomas, PhD