In the Gospel today, religious leaders tried to put Jesus between a rock and hard place. They wanted to know if they could trick Him into upsetting someone, no matter how he responds. “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Option A: Jesus says yes. Now the people are upset because Jesus openly admits to supporting the Roman regime which has conquered the area and is ruling the people.
Option B: Jesus says no. Now the officials and those in the community who support the local governance are on high alert. Jesus has labeled Himself as a revolutionary.
Option C: Don’t people know yet there’s always an option C? “Show me the coin,” Jesus says. “Whose image is on it?” Can you hear the mumbled reply, the looks on their faces as they realize just how quickly the tables got turned? Jesus’ definitive response: “Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”
As citizens of our countries, we have duties and responsibilities to our governments and fellow citizens. One of the primary ways we in America pay back to Caesar is through full and active participation in our elections. I’m not going to begin a political debate or lecture you on which side to vote for. I’m simply asking for your full and active participation in the process. Vote!
Ok, that aside, how do we know what belongs to God? God doesn’t have a coin for us to reference, but Jesus’ measure of what is owed to Caesar can still be applied. If the coin which bears Caesar’s image on it belongs to him, then it would stand to reason that whatever bears God’s image ought to be returned to Him. The question then follows, “What (or who) bears God’s image?”
US! We, His most prized creations, are made in His image. While we live on this earth, and we participate in civic life, social and cultural movements, family and workplaces, we do not owe our lives to the world. We owe ourselves to God. When we place our lives in His care, He generously returns us to even fuller participation in the world He created for us.
I know, it’s a bit convoluted and confusing. Think of it like this: The more you take away from the ground, the larger the hole you’re making will become. The more you dig, the greater its capacity to hold whatever you need it to hold. The more we give ourselves to God, the greater our capacity to do the work in the world He has laid before us.
As Advent is approaching – yikes! – now is a great time to look at what you give to Caesar, and what you give to God. If you would like to learn more about being a fully active Catholic citizen, take the time to read Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, a document written last year by the US Bishop’s Conference about public responsibility.
Also, be on the look out! The free Advent Journals are in their final stages and I’m so excited for this year! Be sure you are signed up to receive emails when I post new content so you can get your copies for this year. There’s a new page at the top which has all of the Advent Journals from the previous years in one place.