Life is not always so clear that I always know what to say. Sometimes trying to figure out how to answer someone is quite frustrating. Sometimes when I am walking along, a person "ambushes" me with a question. My immediate response in my head is to say "I do not answer questions when I am standing. I can only answer when I am sitting down." I want to say this because I know the situation requires a correct response and I need some time to get it out of my brain to my mouth. Sad to say most of the time, I come up with the correct and sensitively spoken answer later that day or the next. I later reflect and say "I should have said this, or that." Have you noticed in the Gospels how Jesus is quite quick on his feet and able to answer right away? Even those people who were trying to manipulate and trick Jesus, Jesus answered with the correct response. He did not give snide or demeaning answers. He answered them, treating them with dignity and respect.
In this weekend's reading from the Old Testament, we learn of God's greatness. Indeed, not only did God create us and know us personally and intimately, but God is so great and wondrous that God's glory surpasses any treasures we know, or even can imagine. All the epic greatness we know in this world, whether it be wealth, power, or celebrity status, could only be accomplished through God's authority. For this reason, our beloved Saint Paul tells the people who lived in Thessalonica that God has created them for great things and even more importantly that God has the power to transform their lives.
Notice in the passage of Matthew's Gospel that the author distinguishes worship of God from paying homage to anyone else. When Jesus was about to be tricked by the Pharisees, unlike probably you or I, kind but clear words came to him. The Pharisees were able to answer their own questions as Jesus led them through a process in logical deduction. Jesus first asked to see a coin used for paying taxes. On the coin was an impression of Caesar's head and imperial title. The Pharisees obviously understood that taxes were to be paid to Caesar, and Jesus also agreed. He insightfully added, however, that what belonged to God, namely glory, should be given only to God. Jesus made it crystal clear that the two payments were not to be confused.
Separation of church and state can get messy, and in fact is messy. Note all the controversies swirling in our public place at the moment. Many people use God or religion as their reason for making governmental and public decisions. Many of these decisions are good and helpful, but some of these decisions are immoral, or racist or cruel or unjust. Notice how religion and God are still invoked. Those who understand history know in war often both sides say God is on their side, not the other side.
Our coins have imprints of great leaders, but the lettering reminds us that it is "In God we trust." As Catholics, we see God in all facets of our lives, especially the governing of God's people. As it was in the days of Caesar, God is the ruler over all people; and if authority were not given by God, rulers of any era would have no power. We, in fact empower our governmental leaders as the children of our great God. Thus we expect that the basis of any government action should be the well-being of the nation's people. Bear in mind that God first is concerned for our well-being. When we see a conflict in what political leaders strive to do and what we know God wants us to do, we must follow the higher power. We pray and hope that God is guiding us and that our decisions are correct. And we remember that we must always treat those who disagree or oppose us with the same respect and dignity that Jesus did. At present, people are not doing this. Yet it can change, if you and I start the change. It will spread.BACK TO LIST