Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Joe Hoover, S.J.June 06, 2023
Scripture in Matthew Jesus and Caesar Coin stock photoPhoto from iStock.

A Reflection for Tuesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Find today’s readings here.

So Jesus said to them,
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
They were utterly amazed at him. (Mk 12:17)

Once someone asked me what I thought about the most [notorious? prophetic?] leftist politician in the country.

I didn’t give him either answer he wanted—“I love her!” or “I can’t stand her!”—because I didn’t feel like engaging. I didn’t feel like playing someone else’s game. The question really had nothing to do with my opinion on this member of Congress. The question was really “which side are you on?” And not even which side are you on politically. But are you on my side, period. Are you with me or are you against me? Can I count you in my inner circle, or should I keep you at a safe distance?

Questions like these about controversial people or issues are so often all about the asker, not the thing being asked.

Jesus gets a similar question about one thing but that is really about something else. Shall we pay the census tax?

What is more intriguing and useful to me is how Jesus, when interrogated by his enemies, hears the words behind the words; how he responds to what is really being asked.

And Jesus too does not give the answer they want—“pay your taxes” or “don’t pay your taxes.” Either answer would have gotten him in trouble with either the Pharisees or the Herodians. Either response would have been one more way for them to squelch the movement Jesus had created, as manifested in particular in the cleansing of the temple prior to this passage.

His answer—“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” in one way has little to do with paying taxes or not paying taxes. What I hear today is Jesus saying to these men, “Do not play games with me. I am the Christ and you are not. You are trying to trap me but you are merely binding yourselves more and more tightly into a small and fearful world whose power and status is threatened by a new prophet calling you to actually live the word you preach. It is time you grew up.”

I do not think this one sentence about paying taxes is a foundation and blueprint for how 21st-century Christians should carry out their civic obligations. What is more intriguing and useful to me is how Jesus, when interrogated by his enemies, hears the words behind the words; how he responds to what is really being asked. He discerns what is actually happening here and draws it immediately back to the one needful question: Where is God in this? Now find him.

More: Scripture

The latest from america

U.S. Catholics are more polarized than ever in how they view Pope Francis, even though majorities on both ends of the political spectrum have a positive view of the pope, according to a new survey.
In this special round table episode of “Inside the Vatican,” America Editor-in-Chief Father Sam Sawyer and the Executive Director of Outreach, America’s LGBT Catholic resource, Michael O’Loughlin, join host Colleen Dulle for a discussion on the document “Dignitas Infinita” and the pastoral
Inside the VaticanApril 12, 2024
Miles Teller stars in a scene from the movie "Whiplash." (CNS photo/courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)
Played by Miles Teller, Andrew falls prey to an obsession so powerful that it robs us of the clarity or freedom to make good choices.
John DoughertyApril 12, 2024
In one way or another, these collections bear the traces of the divine, of the needful Christ.
Delaney CoyneApril 12, 2024