Monday 11 September 2017

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, year ’A’ 29e dimanche du temps Ordinaire

“So give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Is 45,1-6 Ps.95 1 Th.1-5b Mt.22,15-21

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, year ’A’

"Then the Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap him in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ’Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honesty, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’   We are struck with how those speaking with Jesus are dishonest in their intentions, they’re not seeking an answer to their questions nor are they looking for any truth. What matters to them is to fool Jesus and show up his faults. In asking this question, they are setting a trap for the one who bothers them, a trap from which he couldn’t get out of unhurt. To pay Roman taxes means to recognise the legitimacy of the authorities of the occupation, whereas according to Jewish faith the only applicable law in Israel is God’s Law. The religious and political dimension of the questions asked by the Pharisees is made quite obvious in the way the question is asked. Thye didn’t ask Jesus ’Do we have to pay taxes?’ So, we could ask this about the French government. But they asked ’Is it allowed’, that means is it allowed by God’s law. So, if Jesus were to reply that one had to pay taxes to Cesar, he would turn himself into a collaborator of the Roman occupant, and so be unfaithful to the Jewish law. If he were to reply that they shouldn’t pay taxes, the Pharisees could denounce him to the roman authorities as a rebellion. This Gospel is strikingly up to date and speaks to us today. We are in a world where people still like to contest in an underlying way anything to do with religion.  Jesus is the Living Word of God and people try to catch him out over His Word!  In fact, what it is about is mankind’s responsibility and God’s responsibility in the building up of a better world. "But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ’You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with!’ They handed him a denarius, and he said ’Whose head is this? Whose name?’  Jesus is a genius and so he asks them to bring him a Roman coin, for money is a sign of authority. Once again, Jesus gets people to take a good hard look at themselves and their own behaviour. When they see how incoherent they are they are speechless. It could all end there. Jesus’ Goodness is to open up the mind of those around Him to the Light of Truth. He wishes to make those he’s talking to think twice about the hidden and spiritual dimension of his answer. If they should give to Cesar whatever bears the image of Cesar what should they give to God?  “Let us make man in our image, in our ressemblance.and God created man in his image, in God’s image he created him, man and woman he created them.’ In the first testament God’s Word tells us over and over agin just how much it is God who is the origin of everything. So, all justice is established from the Word of God. We are in solidarity with our brothers in humanity and we ought to be committed in the world’s realities. And so a new humanity is built up where human values are respected.   “Caesar’s” they replied. He then said to them ’Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar- and to God what belongs to God.”  In inviting people to give back to Cesar what belongs to Cesar and to God what belongs to God, Jesus is establishing a fundamental distinction. We are seeking for each person to have the best for himself and for others. Jesus opens up a path for Christians to follow a path of solidarity and of sharing. The human person is at the centre and summit o creation. If money bears the mark of political authority, he turns legitimately towards this authority by paying the taxes. Humans are marked by God’s image right from the beginning, their vocation is to return to God. To return to the One who has marked our hearts with his image doesn’t come about only at the end of our lives. We are invited tro recognise God’s Presence and authority in our daily lives. The image of the tax we pay helps us to understand what is right to do towards the One who has created us in his image. The freedom we have to turn to our Heavenly Father doesn’t take anything away from the need we have to consecrate time to others.  Today human dignity is recognised on a universal level. Yet how many difficulties there are before the common good and respect of practical recognition of human dignity! We can easily forget how God’s discreet Presence lies within each one of us. In being marked by the seal of the Holy Spirit it is our whole life which is called to become an offering for God, through the prayer and services we can give. Jesus invites us to reflect upon the way we organise our lives.

We ask God for the grace to be enlightened about the path of justice for the construction of the Civilisation of Love.