Homily for the twenty-ninth Sunday of the year - Year A - Mt. 22:15-22
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle Jesus 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.» When they heard it, they marveled; and they left him and went away. "
" 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.» When they heard it, they marveled; and they left him and went away. "
"The Word became flesh." (Jn. 1:14) About two thousand years ago, the Word, that is to say the Word of God, God's only Son, became flesh: he was incarnated, he took flesh from the Virgin Mary. One day, the world was transformed into a new world, not yet in a complete manner, affecting all the inhabitants of the planet, but rather in that unique person we call Christ!
Since that day, since the instant of the Incarnation of the Word, we can and should render to God what belongs to God. What should we render to God? Can we render anything to God? Yes, certainly! We can render to God all that we are: we can give him all of our being! For Jesus said: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Now, what do we render to Caesar? Is it not his effigy, his image? And are we not created in the image and likeness of God? Consequently, we give ourselves to God, rendering to him his image, just as we pay taxes to Caesar by rendering to him his effigy...
When I buy bread at the bakery, I am amazed to see before me the image of God: the baker who sells me bread is also an "image of God"! This is truly amazing, marvelous! Even if the baker did not believe in God - and she does believe in him! - I should see her as an image of God... Should I not, here too, apply what Jesus says: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's"? For if I must pay the tax imposed by the institution we call the State, I must also, similarly, pay this person who sells me bread: I must, at least, render justice, and also, if possible, render charity by respecting my neighbor.
When, on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the Samaritan found a wounded man, did he not, he too, see the image of God who laid there, on the ground, disfigured by the blows received from brigands? Did he not, he too, use the effigy of Caesar to pay "two denarii" (Lk. 10:35) to the innkeeper in whose care he left the wounded man? Certainly, the Samaritan recognized the image of God in that wounded man! The good Samaritan rendered to Caesar what belongs to Caesar... The good Samaritan did not sell the wounded man to the innkeeper: rather he gave him money. On the contrary, Judas sold Jesus for "thirty pieces of silver" (Mt. 26:15). Now, in doing so, Judas betrayed the Image of God made man! And do you know an honest seller? They are rare birds, but that is not very important... When I buy something and give my money to the seller, I risk nothing: I am giving away a good to which I might become too attached... But when I sell something, I often risk asking for an unjust price, one that surpasses the true value of the thing sold...
Money is a means: we need to have some, but not too much. If we act accordingly, if we consider money to be a simple means of subsistence, then we render to God what belongs to God. But if we lack money, we run the risk of murmuring and complaining, sinning against God and neighbor; in a sense we would be right, since every man and woman has the right to a decent life. If we have too much money, we run the risk of believing that paradise can be found on earth, unless we use that money to help our neighbor, seeing in him the image of God!
In the time of Jesus, there were no coins bearing a reference to Christianity: that would have been anachronistic. Today, on the other hand, we find, for example, in the United States of America coins or bills that say: "In God we trust"; or at the Vatican, we can use coins with the effigy of the Pope, the living image of Christ. So things have evolved. But is our spirit better than in Jesus' time? Let us ask Mary, the perfect image of God, to help us through her all-powerful mediation!