Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 22, 2023
We often say, “Religion and politics don’t mix.” Our nation has a tradition of separation between Church and state. But today’s Sunday Mass readings bring these two realities together.
The First Reading comes from the book of the prophet Isaiah–a text written in the sixth century before Christ some two hundred years after the original Isaiah prophesied. The situation: the people are in exile under the domination of the king of Persia–Cyrus. He’s a pagan king, but the prophet calls him God’s “anointed.” God will use this pagan king to restore his people to their homeland. In the Gospel, the civil ruler in the spotlight is the Roman Emperor. Here the religious-civil issue is raised by the Pharisees. Seeking to trap Jesus, they want his opinion on paying taxes. (It seems like the subject of taxes is a timeless human issue!) At any rate, you know the Lord’s response: Give to Caesar what belongs to him; but give God what belongs to God.
It’s all a matter of priorities. The state is an institution that commands our response to legitimate responsibilities. Christians have an obligation to be good citizens. But God can and will call on us for a response which comes first. Our American bishops have taken pains to instruct us on the duties of citizenship, and the values of faith which must assist us in our response. Today let’s allow our Lord’s timeless priorities to guide us.