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A Reflection On The Gospel Matt. 22. 15-21 For The 29th Sunday In Ordinary Time (Cycle A) By Fr. Isidore Clarke, OP

A Reflection On The Gospel  Matt. 22. 15-21 For The 29th Sunday In Ordinary Time (Cycle A) By Fr. Isidore Clarke, OP

Greetings from Fr. Isidore Clarke.Today I'm going to reflect on the Gospel for 29th Sunday for Ordinary Time, Matt. 22. 15-21.In this famous Gospel Jesus avoided being trapped into being a traitor to His own people or being charged as a revolutionary against the Roman occupying forces.

It's downright foolish – a waste of time and effort to try to out-smart God! That's what Christ's enemies, the Pharisees, discovered when they set a trap for Him. Jesus out-smarted them by leading them to fall in it themselves. To ensnare Jesus they used the vexed question of paying a poll tax to the Romans. Here's the 'no win' choice they offered Jesus:

1.If He advised Jews to pay the tax they would condemn Him for recognising the right of the pagan Romans to occupy their land and govern their people.Such an admission would seem to deny that God alone ruled His people. His preaching the kingdom of God would have been completely discredited.

2.But if Jesus told Jews not to pay the tax His enemies could have told the Romans that He was spreading civil disobedience.

In Christ's own life-time someone in Galilee had led a revolt against this tax.When they had to suppress this rebellion they crucified him along with his collaborators.Jesus would have got the same brutal treatment if He'd denounced such an unpopular tax. His enemies thought that however Jesus replied to this question about paying the tax He would condemn Himself either as being hostile to the Romans or to His own people. They prided themselves on getting Jesus beautifully cornered! His opponents thought they'd trapped him in a no-win situation. But they were the ones who would find themselves cornered. Jesus had out-smarted them!

When he asked them to produce the coin with which they paid the tax they produced a denarius - a Roman coin.Possessing that coin was in itself an admission that they were compromised as loyal Jews.But worse still for them, the coin would have borne the image of Caesar, with the inscription, 'Son of God'The possession of such a coin implied Christ's Jewish enemies recognised the Roman emperor as their lawful ruler - a man who dared togive Himself the title, 'Son of God'.For a pious Jew that would have been blasphemy.They'd really fallen into the trap they'd set for Jesus!

But instead of labouring this point Jesus gave an enigmatic answer to the question about paying the Roman tax.He replied 'Render to Caesar what is due to Caesar and to God what is due to God.'Instead of answering the trick question about the tax, Jesus simply states a principle, without spelling out what is owed to Caesar, who represents all secular authorities.

This affects each of us.Though our true home is in heaven, as St. Paul tells us (Phil.3.20), we are also citizens of the world. We have a duty to respect the government of the country in which we live, and to obey the laws which it enacts. That includes paying taxes to finance health, security, roads etc. and to promote development.But while we must recognise our civic obligations, our final loyalty is to God.Where's there's a clash over the demands made on us God's will must always come first.In such cases it may be our duty to protest or even disobey unjust laws enacted by the state –even at the risk of being punished.

A final reflection. Today's Gospel shows that it's a great mistake to try to out-smart God.We can't win.That was the Psalmist's message when he said, 'With the sincere you, Lord, show yourself sincere, but the cunning you outdo in cunning,' ( Ps.18. 26).

May God bless you.

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