Homily for the twenty-ninth Sunday in the year

Year A  -  Mt. 22:15-22


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"The Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle Jesus in his talk.  And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodi-ans, 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, 'Caesars.'  Then he said to them, 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods.' When they heard it, they marveled; and they left him and went away."



Homily:


"The Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle Jesus in his talk.  And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodi-ans, 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?'"

The Church, following Christ, and for the sake of carrying on his mission, shows the men and women of the whole world the way that leads to Heaven.  The Church always seeks to orient the hearts of men toward the things of heaven, the spiritual realities that God promises to all who will have obeyed his Word:  his own Son, the Christ Jesus.  Nevertheless, the Church, who teaches in God's name, has something to say about everything which directly touches the world in which she lives each day.  The Church, following Christ, primarily deals with the spiritual realities, but also deals with temporal and transitory things, such as the taxes that must be paid to Caesar.

"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, 'Caesars.'  Then he said to them, 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods.'"

Since the Church leads a truly public life, one that is almost always peaceful, except in certain times or places, the Church tends to oscillate between, on one hand, minimizing her care of temporal things and overvaluing the spiritual realities;  and on the other hand devoting herself to the care of temporal things and neglecting spiritual realities.  In each of these two cases there lies a trap and a temptation:  the Church, following Christ's example, should neglect neither the temporal nor the spiritual.

When the Jews ask Jesus, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?", the Lord is not fooled, and in his reply, he will place on an equal footing one's duties to God and to Caesar, though he mentions God first and then Caesar, since the latter depends on God, his Creator.  The teaching of Jesus is clear:  nothing must be neglected, neither the temporal nor the spiritual.  For both of these together form a whole, like the body and the soul of a human person.  Separate the soul from the body of man, and the person dies.  Similarly, separate the temporal from the spiritual, and humanity is dismembered, disaggregates, and dies . . .

Today's world is materialistic and soulless:  it does not fulfill its duties to God.  In general, people pay their taxes, but do they render glory to God for having created them?  Christians today no doubt try very hard to render service to and alleviate the material sufferings of others, but do they obey God and his Church?  Do they come together each Sunday to take part in the Eucharist?  Are they, or rather, are we the true worshippers in spirit and in truth whom the Father seeks and invites to the eternal wedding feast of his Son?

"When they heard it, they marveled; and they left him and went away."

The Jews began by saying to Jesus, "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."  Here is where they are caught in their own trap:  knowing, or pretending to know, that Jesus taught the truth, the Jews are now trapped by a reply to which they can make no response.   Jesus, who is the Truth, is always the conqueror of Evil!  Following Christ and his teachings, the Church, who believes in this Truth which is God, is herself also the conqueror of Evil!

Obedience to the spiritual Law, obedience to the temporal law!  This is the summary of today's gospel.  This is what Mary, the Most Blessed Mother of God, did during her life on earth.  Even, and above all, during the sublime event that was the Incarnation of the Son of God, Mary proclaimed her obedience and her faith in divine revelation: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)  Mary conceived Jesus in her body, as she did in her spirit.  Thus united to Jesus both spiritually and corporeally, she endlessly obeys the spiritual Law and the temporal law.  May Mary be our model as we take part in today's Eucharist!