Year A: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 22: 15-21
After a series of conversations and parables which left the leaders of the people wrong-footed, the inevitable happens - they begin to plot against Jesus. Strange alliances were formed - like today’s between the Pharisees and Herodians - the first were ardent supporters of Jewish Law, the second keen to keep the Romans sweet and so continue Herod’s rule as puppet king.
The test put before Jesus - should Jewish people pay taxes to the Romans or not? - was loaded.
Only the Romans could impose the death penalty - but they would not do this for purely religious reasons, Somehow, the leaders had to show that Jesus was preaching revolution and working against the Roman Empire.
The Jewish people had an uneasy relationship with the Romans but, as an established religion were allowed to continue their religious practices. In trapping Jesus, they also had to distance Him from themselves - they had to be seen as accepting the rule of Rome or risk losing the religious freedom they had. By “discovering” His revolutionary tendencies and handing Him over to the Romans, they would be shown to be loyal subjects and their religious rights would continue to be protected.
This may seem wrong in relation to Jesus - but still happens in countries where churches collude with governments to maintain religious “freedom”
Jesus is unruffled. He sees the hypocrisy of the questions and, as the Pharisees and Herodians themselves had recognised, being an honest man, unafraid of anyone regardless of rank, tells them so.
Then, He picks up the coins and points out that this belongs to the Roman rulers. They have become part of the Roman economy and so can reasonably be expected to contribute to it through taxation.
This is not a Godly matter at all...
Living in society places obligations on people - but they must not confuse those obligations with their obligations to God.
What does it mean for me?
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