Today’s Gospel for Mass

Now, far be it from me to correct or caveat what Jesus says, but…

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus concludes the debate with his opponents and critics by saying to them: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

So far fine… But those words have found a wider and more general application down the centuries as making a distinction between God’s realm and Caesar’s: between a secular world and the Church, even.

Jesus makes a valid point in the context of controversy, but he knows – as should we – that there is indeed one world, only one true kingdom, namely God’s. Ultimately, whatever respect it is proper to pay to “Caesar” and to Caesar’s laws, that needs to be within the limits of what is acceptable in God’s kingdom, whatever is in accord with God’s will.

Jesus’ quick-wittedness and irony demonstrates to his opponents they seem to have embraced a two worlds theory. How sadly ironic that Jesus words have subsequently been used to defend just such a theory.

But there is one kingdom. God’s.

This point is forcefully made in Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical Fratelli Tutti – take a look, for example, at paragraphs 118-120 about re-envisaging the social role of property. W emay find ourselves more ready to submit to the law of Caesar than we are to rise to the challenge of the love of neighbour!

Gospel reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 22:15-21

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Paying Taxes to Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.”

And they brought him a denarius.

20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”

21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2020, Allen Morris. The Tribute Money, Titian: National Gallery, London

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