Monday, October 23, 2017

The Sunday Word

Our Sunday Gospel puts before us the incident where some influential men who were opposed to Jesus tried to set him up for big public embarrassment and destroy his credibility.In front of a great crowd — perhaps equivalent to asking him on live TV — they asked him whether it was lawful to pay taxes to the emperor. Their devious idea was that if Jesus argued against the tax, they could accuse him to the Roman governor of urging rebellion against Rome. On the other hand, if he endorsed the tax, the common people who hated their Roman overlords would likely view him as sympathetic to Rome, and thus turn away from him. For Jesus, it was — they thought — a lose-lose situation.

Unfortunately for them, they had no plan when Jesus turned their question on its head, and that’s exactly what he did. Calling for his challengers to produce a coin of the realm, Jesus asked them whose head was imprinted on it. After the challengers gave the obvious answer that the image was that of the Roman emperor, Jesus instructed them to “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus was telling his audience that day about a kind of error that they could make with their money. In fact, he turned the whole incident into a teachable moment in which he reminded them that they should be as attentive to their responsibilities toward God as they were to their obligations as subjects of the empire.