Remember the old cartoons of the roadrunner and the coyote? The coyote was always chasing the roadrunner—always out to get him—to eat him. The Pharisees were always out to get Jesus, plotting on how to trap Him. Since a political system was in place, the Pharisees thought that they would use politics to trap Jesus in front of all who were listening. In politics there are sides—different philosophies on how to solve the world’s problems. Interestingly that after years of human history, we still have politics and we still have problems. The Pharisees thought that they had a sure way to make Jesus look bad. With their question, He was destined to fail. Taxes. Nobody likes taxes but they are a necessary reality. The Jewish people were in an oppressive situation under the Romans. They not only had to pay taxes to the Temple, they also felt unjustly taxed by the government. The Jews had to pay up and shut up. The Pharisees saw their opportunity to put the inexperienced guy on the spot. Jesus had gained in popularity. People enjoyed listening to Him. So they created a situation where Jesus could not win—a political trap. “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If Jesus would have said “Yes,” then He would have looked bad in front of all the Jews who were opposed to the tax. If Jesus would have answered “No,” then He would have looked bad in front of all the Romans who were also listening. Jesus saw right through the Pharisees and called them hypocrites. Hypocrites, because the job of the Pharisees was to teach about God, the Torah, the Prophets. Basically, the Pharisees challenged Jesus to take a political stance— to choose—who’s right and who’s wrong. That’s what everybody wants to hear. Who’s right and who’s wrong. We like black and white answers—clear cut—no room for doubt. Notice that Jesus did not choose sides. He gave an answer that has echoed through the centuries: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” A quote which has often been misused by those who advocate the separation of Church and State. Do we take off our citizenship when we enter our Church? Do we stop being Catholics when we speak about our government? Regardless of our political views, we are called to be good citizens of whatever country we belong. We are blessed to enjoy religious freedom in the United States of America. We are also blessed to voice our opinion by voting. Hopefully voter turnout will be better than the census response. The image on the coin shown to Jesus was Caesar. We have images on our money. Whose image is on our soul? Whose name do we invoke when we pray? Republican, Democrat, independent, indifferent—we all belong to God. Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight because Jesus loves all children of the world. Meanwhile, we keep fighting. The greatest reasons for war have been reli ion and politics. Rocks and clubs are no longer in style. We use cyberspace, riots, chemical warfare. What used to be considered absolute fantasy has become life-threatening. Nuclear bombs are part of our glorious history and now we face a pandemic that has changed our lives. How do we fight something we cannot see? Whom do we blame for our predicament? Sad state of affairs when human life has become the determining factor on how we vote. Promises, rhetoric, ideologies. Ultimately, how we treat each other, even when we disagree, is what determines our Christianity. Jesus never compromised and He told His executioner: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” All power, all life, all holiness come from God. The sooner we realize that God is in charge, the happier we will be. Our number one reason for life is to do His will. His one commandment is not about a particular way of government, but a particular way to love.
Msgr. Gustavo Barrera
celebrated his first Holy Mass as pastor on September 15, 2007, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows. With his enthusiasm and spiritual guidance, OLS will continue to serve our Catholic family in a way that will challenge us to grow as an evangelizing community.
Msgr. Gustavo Barrera, Pastor.