Repay to God, What Belongs To God

6.5.18  Tues. wk. 9 – Ordinary Time (II)
2nd  Letter of St. Peter 3: 12 – 15a
Gospel  of  Mark  12:  13 – 17

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.       The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                “Repay to God, What Belongs To God”

It is another election day throughout the United States and the Catholic Bishops of the United States encourage us to “good citizenship”.  We are to use our voting power to change the culture for the better.  But too often the extent to which we want to change the culture, is limited to our political party or personal preference.  There are many who choose not to let their faith inform their political choices.  They just check it off – where there is a “D” or “R” or an “I” or whatever it is – that’s it.

In the Gospel today, †Jesus said: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God – what belongs to God”. (Mark 12:17)  The Pharisees and the Herodians had hoped to discredit †Jesus.  If †Jesus told the people not to pay the census tax – He would be in trouble and be denounced by the civil authorities.  Yet, on the other hand – if He said that the Jewish people should pay – then He would be discredited by the religious authorities.  This passage has often been used to justify the separation of Church and State – making them equal.  Yet, that is not what †Jesus does here.  †Jesus relativizes the authority of the emperor, and †Jesus emphasized God’s ultimate authority; God’s Sovereignty over all.  So it is a question of – ‘who defines us’?   Who is it that defines who we are?

Many of our leaders have possessed wonderful qualities:  Washington, Lincoln, King.  Today we remember the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, which many of us recall.  Many looked upon Bobby Kennedy and his principles as worthy of imitation.  When he ran for the Democratic nomination in 1968 there was hope that he would be able to save this country from the morass of the 1960s.  But we must never forget that there is only one savior of the world and that is †Jesus.

Interestingly enough in this Gospel passage today, the Pharisees and the Herodians name the values that †Jesus actually lived, values that we are called to live.  They said: “You are a truthful man”. (Mark 12: 14f)  There is not a multiplicity of truths:  “†Jesus is the way and the truth and the life”.  They said: “You are not concerned with anyone’s opinion”. (ibid)  †Jesus was never a ‘people-pleaser’; †Jesus listened only to the Father and His will.  And they said: “You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth”. (ibid)  †Jesus was not out to impress anyone or to be part of any privileged group.  His mission was this: “To bring glad tidings to the poor…to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord”. (Luke 4:18f) †Jesus was single-minded about the reign of God and we are invited to become more deeply centered on God’s will, on proclaiming the Word of God and building up the Kingdom of God. That is our mission!

As followers of †Jesus we have a duty to participate and to live out our faith in all areas of our lives, especially in the public arena.  We can’t extract our self from the public arena.  Religion and public life are not necessarily opposite, yet politicians, and constitutions and congresses and courts do not give us eternal life; we have to keep our priorities straight.  That is what †Jesus was saying: ‘Caesar doesn’t save you; my Father in heaven saves you’.  God has ultimate sovereignty over all.  As disciples of †Jesus – we are to be examples of the holiness of †Jesus and to live that holiness in the public arena.  The world is in crisis, but I think we have to be clear, first of all – it is a spiritual crisis that the world is in.

In the second Letter of Peter we read: “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior †Jesus Christ”. (13: 17f)  We are called to be good citizens, but let us not forget where our true citizenship lies.  St. Peter writes: “We await a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”. (2 Peter 12:13)

So – let us live the values of the Kingdom of God first –

“Repay to God what belongs to God.” (Mk.12:17)

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.