Gospel – Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion,
for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them,
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
Reflection on the Sunday Gospel
Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God…
This gospel from Matthew is filled with implications. Prior to my involvement in the Lasallian Educational Mission, these words would bring to mind a flurry of ideas and phrases. Among them are: the relationship between church and state, the responsibility of taxes and citizenship, and the ideas of contempt and trickery.
As my own faith life has deepened, and I’ve become more familiar with the Lasallian charism, these same words bring to mind a phrase used often in our circle: “Lord, the work is Yours!”
Here, Matthew highlights an attempt by the Pharisees to capture and manipulate Jesus, to trick him, to set him up for failure. We see in Jesus’ response, brilliance. He knows what the Pharisees are up to and he seems to recognize they expect he cannot outsmart them. Jesus appears to be keenly aware the Pharisees believe they have him caught between a rock and a hard place. It seems apparent that no matter Jesus’ response, he will avail himself to their trap. The Pharisees expect Jesus will either admit he is above Caesar or he will admit he is less than Caesar. Or so it seems.
Jesus seems to step out in faith…he gives the Pharisees a response that suggests to me Jesus has turned to God and His will. His decision to bring the attention of the Pharisees to the reality that what they’ve handed him is simply a creation of Caesar’s that Caesar created and uses for his own good appears to be an inspired logic. By offering this response, Jesus seems to say: No, not you Pharisees! and also: No, not I… but yes, You Lord!”
Let us continue to discern the words of the gospel, through the lens of our shared charism, as an expression of our own faith, and let us continue to consider the ways that we too can say, “Lord, the work is Yours.”