Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-5 Matthew 22: 15-21
A prosperous farmer was miserly in what he gave to his church. So his pastor went to visit him with the hope of getting him to increase his donation. The pastor pointed out to him that the Lord had given him a fertile piece of land and had blessed him with sunshine and rain so that his crops would grow. The priest added, “You know, this farm and everything you have is really on loan to you from God. You should be more grateful.” The farmer replied, “I don’t mean to complain, Father, but you should have seen what a mess this place was when God was running it by Himself!”
Dear friends! The common theme of today’s readings is the nature of our obligations to God and to our country; they show us how, with God’s help, we can be ideal citizens of both earth and heaven. In the first reading, Isaiah the prophet foretells how, indirectly, the policies of the great Persian emperor, Cyrus, will help God’s saving plan for His chosen people. Today’s responsorial Psalm reminds us that when people put God’s kingdom first, everyone benefits.
In the Gospel, Jesus escapes from the trap in the question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” by stating “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” With this answer, Jesus reminds his questioners that if they are so concerned and careful about paying taxes to the state, they should be much more concerned and careful about their service to God and their obligations to Him as their Creator and Lord.
By birth we become the citizens of the country of our birth, and by baptism we become the citizens of heaven. In every age, Christians are faced with balancing the demands of Caesar with the commands of God. Jesus’ answer forms the guiding principle in solving the problems that arise from our dual citizenship, belonging to God and to our country. As Christians, we are to obey the government, even when it is pagan and non-Christian. A loyal Christian is always a loyal citizen. Failure in good citizenship is also failure in Christian duty.
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” It is the duty of Christians to pay for the services and the privileges that government provides, like paved roads, police and fire departments, banks, schools and other necessities. Another way of giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s is to participate actively in the running of the government, electing the most suitable candidates and influencing them through frequent contacts. Third, we must submit to the civil authorities and respect the laws of our country in order to live in peace. As loyal citizens we must also see to it that our elected representatives are faithful in maintaining law and order in the country and in promoting the welfare of its citizens without violating God’s laws.
Similarly, we fulfill our duties to God by being faithful, loyal, active members of the spiritual kingdom, the Church, which Christ established on earth. Thus, a real Christian is at one and the same time a good citizen of his country and a good citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, but his priority is his allegiance to God. Consequently, we give taxes to the government but we give ourselves to God.
“Give to God what is God’s.” Since everything is God’s, we must give ourselves to Him 100%, not just 10% on Sundays. We should be generous in fulfilling our Sunday obligations and find time every day for prayer and worship in the family, for the reading of the Bible and the proper training of our children in faith and morals. Our contribution to the parish church should be an expression of our gratitude to God, giving back to God all that he has given us. Active participation in the various ministries of the parish by offering our time and talents is yet another way of giving to God his due, our whole self.
Check your heart’s investments: When he says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” Jesus is asking us whether we have invested our heart in the right place, in something worthy of our life’s blood, something that will yield a return that’s worthy of a whole human life.