With the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and the “Tea Party” in the news this past week, a curious coincidence occurred this morning at Mass.
The Catholic Church uses a three year cycle of scriptural readings, so at best this was a one-in-three shot, although it’s probably more accurate to call it a one-in-one hundred fifty-six; (three cycles of 52 Sundays.) Rather than paraphrasing, I’ve copied the reading below.
Gospel, Mt 22:15-21
15 Then the Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap him in what he said.
16 And they sent their disciples to him, together with some Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in all honesty, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because human rank means nothing to you.
17 Give us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’
18 But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why are you putting me to the test?
19 Show me the money you pay the tax with.’ They handed him a denarius,
20 and he said, ‘Whose portrait is this? Whose title?’
21 They replied, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Very well, pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar — and God what belongs to God.’
The most obvious lesson from this is that the Pharisees sent their loyalists and representatives of the Jewish king, Herod to ask Jesus a no-win question. If he said the Roman tax should be paid then he would be deemed to be apostate to their faith; if he said it should not be paid, then he could be turned over to the Romans for promoting insurrection. Jesus answer negated both of these outcomes.
Father Brian’s homily pointed out that the more important message is that we are both citizens of heaven and citizens of the earth. Our stewardship responsibilities include such matters as politics, from knowing the issues to voting consistent with our values. We’re responsible to both worlds.
This got me thinking about the current political activities. The Occupiers of Wall Street don’t have the answer – but then neither does Congress, the President, Economists, Social Scientists, Wall Street or anyone else. However, when something is wrong, the first thing to do is to admit that there’s a problem.
I don’t know how things are going to happen in the world of politics over the next 56 weeks (more or less) but it was interesting to have this gospel today.
On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t a coincidence after all. Could be just one more sign that God is involved in our daily lives. Now the question is, “How do we respond?”