Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
Today, Tony reads from the Gospel of Mark (12: 13-17), which documents a confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish leadership of the time. This one of several such confrontations mentioned in Mark’s Gospel, of which Tony says a better understanding can be gained by looking at the culture of the time.
In this instance, Jesus has to respond to a trick question asked by the Pharisees and Herodians about the payment of taxes. The whole incident is, essentially, a trap. If Jesus affirms Roman taxation, he will offend his followers. If he rejects it, as hoped, he would face charges of treason.
Tony says it is really worth reflecting on Jesus’ considered response to this question… He asks for a denarius, to see it. This gives Jesus the time, even a moment, to think about an answer. He doesn’t rush in.
By stopping, asking for a coin, Jesus is able to respond with an answer that is both wise and puts the challenge back on the Leaders. He manages to negotiate their trap. He answers neither as an anti-Roman zealot nor as a pro-Roman citizen.
Tony invites us to reflect on how, when we are out of our comfort zone or in a situation that is potentially confronting, we can stop, take a breath, ask for a coin (a metaphor for asking God’s help or guidance) or ask our patron saint to be with us, instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind. In this way, he says, we too might negotiate confrontation with humility and compassion.
Lord, May we reflect God’s love by and through our words and actions, our attitudes and choices. May we be God’s instruments through which, by faith, prayer and action, we will make the world a kinder place. Amen.