Cycle A 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Is. 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thess. 1:1-5ab; Mt. 22:15-21

Today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew narrates the incident, where the Pharisees, in their relentless pursuit to trap Jesus, posed a question about paying taxes to the emperor. In this exchange, Jesus offers a profound teaching that resonates through the ages, reminding us of our dual responsibilities to our earthly authorities and our heavenly Creator.

The Pharisees, with deceit in their hearts, approached Jesus, acknowledging His sincerity and wisdom, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth." They asked Him, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"

Jesus, ever perceptive, realized their malicious intent. He recognized the trap they were setting. And in response, He provided us with a timeless lesson, one that transcends the political and social contexts of His time. He asked for a denarius, and then He posed the question, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." It was at this moment that Jesus spoke the words that have echoed throughout history, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's and to God the things that are God's."

In this brief but powerful teaching, Jesus imparts a message of profound significance.

First, Jesus acknowledges our duty to civil authorities. We are part of societies governed by laws and rulers. Our faith does not exempt us from our civic responsibilities, including the payment of taxes and adherence to just laws. We must contribute to the betterment of our communities and nations.

This is an important and often overlooked topic of our duty to civil authorities, a responsibility that our faith does not exempt us from. We live in societies governed by laws and rulers, and we have a vital role to play in contributing to the betterment of our communities and nations.

In the Jewish tradition, we find the story of Daniel. He served as a high-ranking official in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. Despite the challenges of living under a foreign ruler with different customs and beliefs, Daniel upheld his faith and performed his civic duties with integrity. His unwavering commitment to his responsibilities not only allowed him to excel in his role but also to serve as a positive example to those around him.

In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-2, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." This verse reminds us that civil authorities are established by divine order.

Likewise, in the famous short story "The Man without a Country" by Edward Everett Hale, we see the consequences of an individual's rejection of civic responsibilities.  Philip Nolan, a young American army officer who, during a trial for treason, angrily renounces his country and wishes to never hear of it again. His request is granted, and he is sentenced to live the rest of his life aboard. Never allowed to set foot on American soil or receive any news about his homeland.

As the years go by, Nolan deeply regrets his impulsive outburst and the absence of his country. He becomes a symbol of remorse and longing for the United States. The story serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of patriotism and the sense of belonging to one's nation. This tale teaches us that neglecting our civic duties can lead to a profound sense of loss and disconnection.

We must remember that our faith calls us to be active participants in our societies. Our civic responsibilities include paying taxes, obeying just laws, voting, and engaging in dialogue with our leaders. When we do these things, we contribute to the betterment of our communities and nations, helping to create a just and harmonious society.

Second, Jesus reminds us that while we fulfil our earthly obligations, we must never lose sight of our higher calling. As human beings, we bear the divine image, and our truest allegiance belongs to God. We must give to God the things that are God's, offering our hearts, souls, and minds in worship, obedience, and service to the Creator.

It's essential to recognize that our faith does not exempt us from our civic responsibilities, including adhering to just laws and contributing to the betterment of our communities and nations. However, Jesus' words remind us that there's a balance to be struck between our earthly obligations and our higher calling.

In  folklore, there is a beautiful story "The Little Dutch Boy."  In the story, a young Dutch boy is walking near a dike when he notices a small leak in the wall, which, if left unchecked, could lead to a catastrophic flood. Acting quickly, he places his finger in the hole to stop the water from seeping through. The boy remains in this position throughout the night, enduring the cold and discomfort.

The story teaches the moral lesson that even the smallest individual efforts can make a significant difference. The young boy's quick thinking and determination saved his town from a potential disaster

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul's words in his letter to the Philippians resonate with this theme. He wrote, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others." This encourages us to balance our earthly obligations with our higher calling to care for the well-being of those around us.

My dear friends, let us remember Jesus' wise words in our daily lives. As we navigate the complexities of our world, may we fulfil our earthly responsibilities while keeping our hearts and minds steadfastly directed towards God. Let our actions be sincere, guided by truth, and free from hypocrisy.