A Year of Faith
Let us joyfully greet the Holy Father's designation of the year from October 2012 as a Year of Faith. Let us gladly look forward to the riches of the Catholic Faith that will be shared during the year, and let us pray God's grace will enable us to share those riches with those around us. click here for more
Please keep an eye out for this new website that enables people to find reliable catholic teaching from the best sources on the web. It is to be launched any day now. Aleteia is from the Greek for truth. http://www.aleteia.org/
Just to clarify my last post. Swordinariate is not shifting over to Twitter. It is just that Twitter will alert people to new postings on this Blog.
Render unto Caesar
The enemies of Jesus set a trap for Him. Although normally the Pharisees and Herodians were enemies, they come together to lay a trap for their common enemy.
The Jews were obliged to pay taxes to Caesar as they were an occupied nation. The Pharisees opposed the paying of taxes, which was obviously a very popular position to take. The Herodians, on the other hand, supported the payment of taxes as a compromise for the sake of peace; by this position they gained power. So the enemies of Jesus lay a trap in the form of a question that would force Jesus to respond in one of two ways: either Jesus would support the tax and thereby discredit himself with the people, or he would tell them not to pay the tax and the Herodians would report Him to the Roman authorities.
In a masterful stroke Christ undermines their trap. Asking for a denarius, the coin used to pay the tax, He enquires as to the image on the coin. The image is of course that of Caesar, inscribed with the words: Augustus Tiberius, son of the divine Augustus.
Caesar claimed to be son of God! Of course this appalled Jews who were known for their rejection of other gods. The Herodians took the position that they would have to put up with this in order for there to be peace – the Pharisees took a hard-line position: resist paying taxes.
Jesus was not however threatened by Caesar's claim of divinity, nor his required tax.
Give to Caesar that which is Caesar's,
and to God, that which is God's.
If Caesar just wants grubby coins, give it to him. The image of Caesar was imprinted on silver coins – the image of God was found in humanity.
Jesus shows His enemies that their focus is wrong. Yes, the claims of divinity by Caesar are untrue, but they need to focus not on the kingdoms of this world rather the Kingdom of God. They should focus on something different to a coin – the human heart, their hearts.
The Pharisees felt themselves to be truly faithful to God's Law. They were not prepared to compromise their principles. They thought the Herodians to be very worldly: far too concerned with politics and power. The Herodians were in part pragmatic; but they were also caught up in power games. But both the religious Pharisees and the worldly Herodians had got it wrong.
Now these two Jewish parties are important not just for historic context but because the same sort of mistakes can be made by people of faith in any century. Whether we think of pragmatists and hard-liners, or, progressives and conservatives, we easily recognise that such parties exist in the church of today.
Retreating into parties within the church is never a good idea. It was not a good idea in the early Church, and it is not good for us today. Such parties can be a prelude to heretical movements. Parties arise out of reacting against something that is perceived to be wrong. In reacting against it, very often an over-reaction occurs. Parties and labels are something to avoid for they accentuate disagreement and cause division. In the time of St Paul, some Christians divided themselves according to who baptised them. What St Paul taught was that what mattered was Jesus Christ, not who baptised (see 1 Cor).
Christ called both Herodians and Pharisees to re-focus, to turn to the heart of the matter.
In the book of the prophet Isaiah, the foreign ruler, Cyrus, was proclaimed to be God's anointed despite not being conscious of it. God reveals that He is quite capable of enabling a foreign power to serve His divine purposes for His people. Similarly God was quite capable of using the Roman Empire for His purposes. Herodians and Pharisees needed to have greater confidence in God who is the Lord 'unrivalled'. Caesar posed no threat to God, no matter what he had stamped on his coins. Christ says that God has no need of coins, He wants hearts converted to Him.
In St Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul shows how focused he is on the divine image reflected by the Thessalonian church. What is reflected is wealth, not in coins but in three principle Christian virtues:
… you have shown your faith in action,
worked for love,
and persevered through hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
May it be that we exemplify such virtues in our daily lives, and thus show the divine image imprinted on us.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect Trinity 14 BCP)
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