Tuesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
The Church and the State
They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ They were utterly amazed at him. Mk 12,13-17
The religious power has already decided to kill Jesus but, in order to execute its plan, it must involve the political power of Rome, which is entrusted with the administration of justice. So, Pharisees and Herodians go together to ask Jesus the famous question: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”. If he answered “yes”, he would alienate the people, who can hardly stand the power of Rome, and even less the payment of taxes. If, however, he answered “no”, he would make an enemy of the Roman power, paving the way to a trial, which, in fact, is going to happen later. Jesus’s answer arouses admiration in those who are present, as well as ours, for his ability to get out of that scrape; but what shines more, and on which we want to focus, is his freedom from money. Inner freedom and frankness of language, in a sly and twisted world, become also today cunning, confuse the opponents and solve the most intricate situations. Jesus shows himself as so free from money matters that he can ask those who are present that he has got no coins in his pocket; he demonstrates he is free from political power, which he does not recognize, but also does not condemnation; free from religious power, by whose blindness he is surprised; free to reply frankly, though knowing he will not be understood. With the answer “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”, Jesus introduces the topic, much discussed today, the secular state and freedom of worship. There are two fundamental aspects of human reality: on the one hand there is the other Caesar and Jesus Christ. Both are important and each of the two powers, civil and religious, has rights and duties. The state and the Church must work together as one and the others are respected. When you can not reconcile them we must make our choices, knowing that the truth of the gospel are eternal, those of the state are tied to the country and historical period.