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IHS Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost A.D. 2019 Ave Maria!

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar' s; and to God, the things that are God' s."

Thou art a true speaker—neither carest thou or any man,

for thou dost not regard the person of men.”[1]

It may help to know that the tribute coin, with Caesar's image on it, was not in general circulation in Israel. The Jews did not make images of anyone—they were concerned with the possibility of idolatry—so their coins generally had plants inscribed on them. They had to go to the money changers and obtain a coin that was forbidden to them in order to pay the tax to Caesar. Clearly, this imposition belittled their religion as well as their national sovereignty.

The Pharisees were the descendants of the Machabees—brave men who lived about 150 years before Christ, and who defended the Jewish religion and it's Temple against the persecution of the Seleucid king's. Famous for the deeds of their ancestors, they were people who wanted to appear to be among the best citizens of Israel.

The Herodians were disciples of Herod Antipas, the son of another named Herod, who had worked his way into favor with the Roman Invaders, and ruled as their “tetrarch,” a sort of “king,” governing Roman interests in Galilee. Herod's father was the one who had so many boy children put to death, to insure that the Christ did not displace him from his throne.

It should be obvious that the Pharisees and the Herodians were trying to trap Jesus—getting Him in trouble with the Romans if He argued against paying tribute to the Roman emperor—and getting Him in trouble with the priests of the Temple if He recognized a right of the Roman Invaders to collect taxes from the Jewish people. The Pharisees, in particular, often drew our Lord's criticism for their hypocrisy, and here we find them at it again. “You do not respect the person's of men,” was a hypocritical flattery—they were saying, in effect, that Jesus in His perfect honesty, would not be afraid to give an honest pronouncement on the tribute question. But all along they knew that a “yes” or “no” answer to the question would entrap Jesus one way or the other.

Ultimately, Jesus would be put to death, under the appearance of Roman law, by a joint action of Jews and Romans. It can be dangerous to be a teller of truth, or even a doer of good. But our Lord was such a man—and He gives an example for our imitation. We should never be deterred from doing good or telling the truth just because someone will be (or pretend to be) offended by the goodness of our action or the truth of our words. There is objective truth and objective morality. These things come from God Himself—they are not matters of opinion or personal preference. We would be wrong to criticize someone for their simple opinions or preferences—other people have no reason to agree that blue is the most beautiful of the colors, or that sausages are the tastiest dish! But they do have an obligation to recognize the sanctity of God, and the immorality of things like murder, theft, and adultery. Even without the benefit of God's Revelations, these things should be known through natural human reason.

We should not be ashamed to do good. For example, no one should refrain from making the sign of the Cross to pray, or be ashamed to quietly bless our food before dinner in a public setting. No one should be ashamed to help a beggar.

Of course our private and inconsequential opinions should be kept to ourselves. But, at the same time, we must not be afraid to “speak truth to a hostile power.” Perhaps less threatening is the idea of voting regularly to insure that our government is run according to Christian principles. Sometimes this will mean coming to the aid of the defenseless, or at least enlisting the authorities to help the defenseless.

A few days ago, I came across a quotation that put this in perspective. An Indian lady named Arundhati Roy observed that:

The trouble [with injustice] is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.[2]

Generally speaking, we must strive to avoid personal violence. Keep our Lord's example clearly in mind. The Price of Peace was indeed someone who spoke the truth, no matter who might be listening.

“Thou art a true speaker--neither carest Thou or any man, for Thou dost not regard the person of men.”



[1] Mathew xxii: 15 22

[2] Arundhati Roy .

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