Appleton, WI

Homily Connect Oct 18: Church and State

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 18, 2020

IS 45:1, 4-6    1THES 1:-5B             MT 22:15-21


Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” 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.”

Not Surprising

  • Taxes were a hot issue in Jesus’ time
  • Our country 1765 in Boston, “Taxation without representation is tyranny!”
  • Tug of war in every election cycle

Heated Discussion in the Time of Jesus

  • Jesus was set up by the religious leaders who were in cahoots with the Herodians
  • King Herod’s main job was to collect taxes from the Israelite people for the Roman Empire

Jesus’ Dilemma – Darned if You Do; Darned if You Don’t!

  • If Jesus says “no” to taxes, they would run to Herod and report Jesus as a revolutionary and have him arrested
  • If Jesus says “yes” to taxes, his own people would have been devastated, because he put his stamp of approval on their unjust oppression

Jesus’ Masterful Response

  • “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God, what belongs to God. “

What Does He Mean?

  • Some would suggest the statement supports the separation of Church and State and some would agree. The Constitution reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
  • Is this different from the notion of the separation of Church and State?

The First Amendment

  • Does not forbid the Church from contributing to discussions that impact the lives of people
  • The Church must be a respectful player at the table as the government discerns what is best for its people-especially those on the margins
  • The Church can bring moral perspective
  • The Church can uphold the principles of the Gospel and its Social Teaching
  • Example in immigration-Welcome the stranger
  • Church and State must cooperate in Building the City of God

Way Back in 1982-An Example

  • Bishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle announced he would withhold 50% of his income tax as a conscientious objection to the nuclear arms buildup
  • “What I have done about my taxes has left me with a spectrum of emotions.  I have not found it easy to civilly disobey, whatever form that might take.  He quotes the Vatican Council II: The arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured.”

The Point

  • The Bishop did not ask others to follow his example
  • He stated, My message is that we can’t leave it to others.  I left it to others for a long time and I was wrong.

Jesus’ Response Challenges us Today

  • Our commitment to the Lord and his values is not something we can hide away
  • The Lord’s way takes priority
  • Any law that challenges the Gospel is a bad law
  • As Christians we bring Jesus into the marketplace so that the Church and State can cooperate in building up God’s Kingdom in our society
  • We vote responsibly by bringing Jesus’ values into the voting booth
  • We uphold the sacred dignity of every person
  • We challenge our government to dedicate itself to advancing the common good for all people

Questions for Reflection

  • What impacted you from today’s Readings and/or homily?
  • How do you understand Jesus’ response? How does being a follower of Jesus play into your response?

Live Connected

  • Spend some time in prayer asking God to guide your heart and mind as you prepare to vote soon.