Wait for and hasten the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames
and the elements melted by fire.
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.
And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.
Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned,
be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled
and to fall from your own stability.
But grow in grace
and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent
to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech.
They came and said to him,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.
You do not regard a person’s status
but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?
Should we pay or should we not pay?”
Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them,
“Why are you testing me?
Bring me a denarius to look at.”
They brought one to him and he said to them,
“Whose image and inscription is this?”
They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”
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.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Let make God’s kingdom to come by living the truth.
Many people are wrong when they think that if the government doesn’t meet what the faithful wanted, the faithful must fight in the name of the Church and be ready to pour out blood for their request.
Today readings help us to recognize what the faithful must and must not do. In the first reading, the author of the Second Letter of Peter reminded the faithful that this world shall be dissolved together with all of its vanities. The most important thing which the faithful must do is to save themselves and others. In the Gospel, some political leaders who were Pharisees and Herodians tried to ensnare Jesus by asking him, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing of their wicked plan, he gave them the answer which they couldn’t do anything to him, but also invited them to reflect on their way of life: “Return to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
1/ Reading I: Be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled.
One thing which Jesus and his apostles always warned the faithful is to watch for the ones who preach false doctrines to cause doubt and to lead them falling from their faith. Jesus called them wolves who are under shepherds’ cloth to devour the sheep (Jn 10:12). St. John called them “antichrists.” They are dangerous because they live among the flock (1 Jn 2:18-19). St. Paul often warned his disciples, Timothy and Titus, to be cautious of these people: “There will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power. Reject them.” (2 Tim 3:1-5). Today passage wanted to remind the faithful two things:
1.1/ The Day of the Lord will come: Jesus confirmed with his disciples that the Day shall come; when shall it happen, nobody knows save the Father. The author disclosed to the faithful two aspects of this Day: First, the cosmos shall be destroyed: “the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire.” Secondly, that Day will begin with “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells,” as God promises. On that Day, everyone shall stand before God’s throne to be judged. Only then, people shall see God’s justice.
No one knows when that Day shall come, but according to Scripture, the faithful can speed up that Day by doing the followings:
+ To pray: In the Our Father, Jesus taught his diciples to pray for “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
+ To preach the Gospel: Jesus commanded his disciples, “Go out to all the earth and preach the Good News.” This command can be understood that when the Good News is preached to all people, God’s kingdom shall come.”
+ To repent and to obey God: This is the most important task. As Father, God wants to save all His children. He shall choose the Day which He can say the most. The author said, “Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you.” That Day doesn’t happen yet because there are still many lost souls. St. Paul said, “when the Jewish people believe in Christ, that Day shall come.” Therefore, the faithful must make efforts to repent and to bring out repentance from others if they want God’s kingdom to come.
1.2/ Don’t be oscillated by false doctrines: There are so many false doctrines in the world which the faithful can only counter by learning the truth. One of these doctines is from those who don’t believe in the next life. Since they put no hope in eternal life, they use all their time and effort for this present life. Jesus and his apostles invited the faithful to always lift up their mind to heaven for that is the true destination of all the faithful. We are only foreigners or temporal residents of this world. Jesus himself answered Pilate, “My kingdom isn’t of this world” (Jn 18:36). The faithful’s way of life must be different with those who put their hope in this world. The author advised his faithful: “Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability. But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.”
2/ Gospel: “Return to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
2.1/ They set up a trap for Jesus to fall into: St. Mark’s account clearly mentioned the origin, the purpose and the way to trap Jesus: “They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”” The reason why they sent these two groups is for their political purposes.
(1) Pharisaic party: held that the Jews must only be governed by the Jews (Deut 17:15). They opposed all foreign authorities and paying tax to the Romans. If Jesus says “Yes,” they shall tell people to oppose him because Jesus favored the foreign authority.
(2) Herodian party: held that the Jews should be compromised with the Romans so that both religion is practiced and politics is safe. They illustrated many good things have come from the Roman Empire during the reigns of Herodian kings. Therefore, they tried to persuade the Jews: Let the Roman empire govern them as long as they don’t interfere with Judaism. If Jesus says “No,” they shall seize and hand him to Roman soldiers because he instigated people to oppose the Roman Empire.
Both parties were gathered to do the wicked thing which is to find a reason to seize and to kill the righteous. They thought that there is no way Jesus can escape their trap.
2.2/ Jesus’ answer: “Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said to them, “Return to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.”
(1) Jesus differentiated politics from religion: Their purposes are different. The purpose of religion is to lead people to God; the purpose of politics is to provide human safety in this world. Three duties of a religious leader are: to teach people God’s teachings to avoid falsity; to celebrate sacraments to bestow God’s grace on people, and to govern people in religious sphere. Three duties of a political leader are: to protect safety for the nation, to provide material necessaries for people, and to protect the nation’s order.
(2) People have to pay taxes to protect the commonweal: Paying taxes is a duty of citizens so that the government has money to meet people’s needs. Besides, people must contribute their effort and talent to develop and to protect their society. Jesus advised Peter to pay tax for him. The apostles encouraged people to obey good leaders. If a government doesn’t care for public welfares, people can find a better one to care for them.
(3) People must return to God what belongs to Him: Jesus invited those who asked him and us to reflect about paying back to God what belongs to Him. Some followings can help us to reflect:
+ We are created according to God’s image and likeness. This means we belong to Him. We have no right to do anything, but we must live according to the way God predestined so that we can live a happy life with Him in heaven. Whoever disobeys God in the name of freedom, shall be destroyed for ever.
+ All worldly authorities come from God; He bestows them on people to share in His governing. He gave Caesar authority over the Jews and he must answer God about his governing. Many times people couldn’t understand God’s providence. Many Jews questioned why God gave the authority of governing the Jews to the Gentiles. Their history gave them the answer because they didn’t obey God through the prophets’ warnings.
When God gives someone the authority and that person doesn’t know how to properly use it, God will take away and give it to the one who knows how to use it. God used the Babylonian king as the stick to punish His people, and He broke that stick by giving the authority to Cyrus, the Persian king. Authorities in the world are always changing according to God’s providence. If God wants to take them away, no one can’t resist; if God wants to keep them in someone’s hands, no one can change them.
When God gives authority, people must use it for the commonweal; but people’s heart is hard to predict. When they didn’t have authority yet, they promise many things; but when they have it, they abuse their power and many times they are worse than the ones who were before them. May be this is the reason why authority must keep changing until the time we shall enter God’s kingdom and be governed by Christ, the righteous king. Only then we shall be at peace. As long as we live in the imperfect world, we must obey God’s will, not to oppose His providence. We believe that He still wisely governs the world.
+ The right to possess material things doesn’t belong to Caesar or to anyone because God creates them for all people to use them. People are only stewards, not owners, and must render their accounts to God.
+ Life belongs to God, time and talent are given by Him. People can’t destroy life from the conception until the end of their life. People can’t waste their time in useless entertainments but must use time to benefit themselves and others. Many wasted God’s given talents in drugs, gambling and immoral way of life. They must pay a hefty price for their abuse of freedom. In brief, people must agree that everything belong to God. People can only use them to benefit themselves and others and to widen God’s kingdom.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must humbly accept the truth that we aren’t wiser than God. Let obey and practice what He commands us to do.
– Our most important task is to save ourselves and others; everything else are optional and only important in this world.