Twenty-Nine Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017
"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."
The Gospel of this Twenty-Nine Sunday in Ordinary Time, which is taken from the Gospel of Matthew is quite instructive: Let us recap.
“The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" 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.”
To plot and entrap Jesus in speech prefigures the temptation encounter that Our Lord would have with the Devil in his forty days and forty nights of fasting and prayer in the desert. Why is this connection necessary? The Premeditated malice of the Pharisees was evil intended. Their motive was intrinsically evil and diabolical, because they meant no good to Jesus, but to sabotage his ministry and reputation. When the devil plots against us and wants to entrap us, he comes in very attractive and appealing ways – very seductive. Let us revisit the above encounter again. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status.” What hypocrites and cowards these men were? Their mouths were sugar coated, while their hearts and intentions were rotten dead. What lesson to learn from this? The lesson for us is that despite the fact that Jesus as God knows their evil intents, he was not rattled or engaged in arguments with them. Why folks? Because devil does
not deserve our precious time that would be better spent praying or doing good rather than wasting it. My dear brothers and sisters, we encounter these kinds of experiences that Jesus had with the Pharisees and Herodians every day in our lives. Are we going to lose our cool, even though we know the negative imaginations against us? Or are we to remain firm and trust in Jesus; keep our cool and ask the Holy Spirit to give us what to do or to say? In response to their treacherous question Jesus, though, had respectfully given them the correct human answer, he nevertheless had some food for thought for them, which I believe they did not get. The question that was left unanswered was: When it comes to what belongs to God and Caesar? The answer is that “Nothing, nothing belongs to Caesar.” He was a mere creature; but everything belongs to God. This is the salient truth that Jesus wanted us to learn too, which his tempters could not decipher, because they were consumed in their evil plot to entrap him.
Father Uche Obikwelu