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CAESARíS MONEY AND YOU - Reflection for the 29 th Sun, Ord Time, Yr. A.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sat, 21 Oct 2017

Today’s first reading (Is 45:1,4-6) echoes with the sobering lesson of its background, the
catastrophic era of Judah’s history. As telling signs of that difficult past, the compact city of
Jerusalem had been lost. Its citadel and first Temple remained in heaps of ruins for decades.
The ten tribes of northern Israel already under Assyrian rule, ‘Judah’ itself gradually withered
away into the ‘provinces of Judea’. Everything was trailed with marks of the combined forces
of Aramean and Chaldean armies who had overran Israel’s southern cities (589- 539 B.C.).
Isaiah’s proclamation also comes across quite remarkably in its proximate context namely,
the ‘consolation’ in view of the ending of the exile. However, the prophetic character of the
passage remains a reminder to God’s absolute sovereignty. The content announcement
employs Israel’s covenanted and prophetic tradition; and uses its prestigious formula – “Cor
amar Yahweh” (‘Thus says the Lord’). Yet, it withdraws from addressing Israel. Instead,
Isaiah’s re-assurance goes to the pagan king of Persia: “to Cyrus my anointed One”.
Unusual, that Deutero-Isaiah announces Jacob’s God in this address of a ‘pagan’ king.
However, it is more instructive that God will be God, even if his chosen people keep failing
him by not keeping his covenant. Faith in God is always rewarded, and God chooses how.
Thus, for Cyrus, we notice that, ‘it is for the sake of my servant Jacob my chosen one, that I
have called you by your name; and conferred the title, though you do not know me’ (Is 45:4).
Then or now, the promise and reward of faithfulness manifests its fruits. When Paul did his
letter ‘to the Church in Thessalonika’, he had lived an Apostle, and worked as missionary of
Jesus Christ for more than fourteen years. Glad to recognise and carry along his assistants
Silvanus and Timothy, our second reading is so inspiring in the joy, the grace and the peace
which it exudes. It is from such sincere convictions strongly cherished in their own lives, that
Paul or ourselves are able and willing to recognise and cherish the efforts of others. Would
that every pastoral leadership can imbibe Paul’s collaborative spirit: “for you have shown
your faith in action and worked for love” (1Thess 1: 4-5).

When we turn to today’s Gospel, Jesus’ acknowledgment of the politically-charged
atmosphere of Roman rule in first-century Palestine is significant in many ways. This
narrative also underpins some of the curious issues facing Church-state relationship today.
However, while politics around the payment or non-payment of Rome’s poll tax features in
this passage, the issues raised are deeper. “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar - and
to God what belongs to God”, is not presented or understood here as a universal political
policy by Jesus.

The flattery opening the inquiry (Mt 22:15); the pressure for Jesus to speak (v.16); the
wording of the question especially, the deft ending it (‘yes or no’, v.17), which demands only
a tailored answer from Jesus: all are within a context. The overall sense peaks with Jesus’
“Why are you testing me (Mt 22:18)?” Thus, there are highlights that those here testing Jesus
were not genuinely seeking guidance or dialogue from him. The deceit crafted, and the
entrapment intended, all crumble before Jesus, when the Pharisees themselves produced
Caesar’s money with all its idolatrous inscriptions, there - at the very precincts of God’s

Jesus is not opposed to ‘Caesar’ in the sense that faith has no prejudices against civic
obligations. However, in circumstances where God’s honour is at stake; let the Children of
God re-consider any blind obedience to an unjust or iniquitous socio-political order.


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