Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this…” 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.” (Mt 22:19- 21)
Justice is giving to each person that which is due to him. God is a person, albeit a Divine Person, who is ever entitled to his own due. In truth, every good thing is due back to God because every good thing comes from God.
Now what good and sincere person who received a rich bequeathal from another good and sincere person would not be thankful and earnestly set out to please that person with a return from all that was given him. Only a thankless and covetous person would not want to please the generous person who bestowed a great gift upon him.
God, most generous, gives us many good things, but the greatest of these is LIFE. The life of man is especially precious because it comes with a promise of eternal life to those who gratefully repay their fruitfulness to God. Therefore, the best way that man can give God his due is to cultivate human life, and what is “human life” except each and every human life created with a rational soul at the moment of conception.
Now a good man will always cultivate human life by assisting the poor, the expectant mother and child, the widow, the orphan; his fellow man in need. However, in our time the good man is told that the expectant mother and child is not really his concern. Caesar or “the world” may still allow the good man to contribute to the health of the unborn child but also demands that he contribute to its death: Caesar wants to tax the good man to pay for abortions. Hence, Caesar no longer wants only a census tax to pay for the born; he wants a death tax to destroy the unborn. Mind you, Caesar has the sonogram; he can look inside the womb. He ought to ask his citizens the same question that Jesus asked about the Roman coin – “Whose image is this?” But Caesar is fearful that the answer will come back, “It is in the image of God”.
For this 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our bulletin cover a work by the French painter James Tissot entitled The Pharisees and The Sadducees Come To Tempt Jesus (1894; Courtesy Brooklyn Museum). Tissot was a prolific illustrator of the activities of Jesus and he offers many artistic insights into Jesus’ mission.
Here we see Jesus confronted in the public square by his religious enemies. Most of the postures of the Pharisees and Sadducees seem aggressive or angry, however one with hand-on-chin appears willing to ponder Jesus’ words, while another who hears raises his eyes to praise God. For His part Jesus raises His hands in brotherhood and invitation while His Apostles sit by as if stymied as to how to act amongst all these teachers of the Law. A beautiful olive tree overhangs the scene. Thus Tissot offers a sense of serenity, yet there remains a tension in this encounter that will soon lead Jesus to be condemned, first by Jewish authorities and then by Caesar.
Present day Caesar continues to be very suspicious of his good citizens – those of us who only desire to give back to God what is God’s.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services