It has been a while since I have published a reflection on the Gospel reading. I wanted to put this reflection out there before the weekend. This will allow people to read it, and reflect on it, before Sunday.
This week the Gospel comes from Matthew [22:15-21]
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
Let us first look at the common use and understanding of this Gospel passage. Jesus knows that the Pharisees are testing him and trying to trick him. If he speaks against Caesar, he can be arrested. Also, if he speaks with favor for the exchange of money, and of the tax collection, than he speaks against the Church.
Jesus very carefully responds by placing the Pharisees on the spot. He has a coin brought to him.
The coins in this time would have a stamp of Caesar on the coin. Many areas would have coins stamped with the rulers face, or bust, on them. This signified who was the ruling authority, and who secured the value of the coin being traded. With this understanding we can see many meanings behind the use of a coin.
Jesus takes the coin, knowing this information, and states that the coin belongs to Caesar (because it has his face on it). Jesus says give it back to the owner.
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” [Mt 19:21]
In a way Jesus is saying that God does not use coin, or monetary exchange.
God does not care about wealth and it is not needed in heaven. Caesar may use coins, because Caesar is a ruler on earth, but God is the ruler of All.
No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. [Mt 7:24]
There is also the foreshadow that exists in this Gospel reading. Not a common perspective of the reading, but one that holds some merit. This Gospel reading is another foreshadow of the Paschal Mystery. The Mystery of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
Jesus says to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus belonged to God. Jesus was divine. Money does not matter in heaven, but divinity means a lot. It is praised, and given worship.
If Jesus is the payment to God, what is being bought? Well my friends this is one of our fundamental beliefs. Jesus came to earth to become human so that he could suffer for all of us.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way;
But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth;
Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people,
A grave was assigned him among the wicked and burial place with evildoers,
Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. [Isaiah 53: 4-9]
We know that Jesus paid the price, and the penalty for our sins. Through His sacrifice we were brought into forgiveness with God the Father. We, all of us, paid to God what belonged to God. We paid it, a divine payment, for our sins.
We brought the pain and suffering to Jesus through our sins. It was because of our sins that God chose His Son for this sacrifice.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. [Jn 3:16]
We can be sure that the price was paid.
Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.
One may give you comfort here in this life. The other for eternal life. Which do you hold more valuable? We cannot serve both.
Let us pray to the Mother Mary for guidance. May She guide us by her intercession to the foot of the cross. So that we may each have an opportunity to know the pain we caused, and to beg forgiveness. Amen.