Focusing the Gospel
Key words and phrases: entrap Jesus, malice, hypocrites, Whose image, belongs to Caesar, belongs to God
Connecting the Gospel …
To the point: Jesus is not fooled by the Pharisees and Herodians' shameful flattery, but sees through it to their malice and hypocrisy. These vices lead to a false dichotomy between earthly and divine kingdoms. Goodness and truth lead us to recognize our place and proper conduct in both kingdoms. When earthly kingdoms are guided by God's values and ways, they are no less than the spatial presence here and now of God's kingdom. And we pay only one tax: the self-giving that bears the image of Jesus.
… to the First Reading: God uses earthly realms, as in the case of Cyrus the Persian who liberates the Jews from Babylonian captivity, to further the presence of God's kingdom. There need be no opposition between them. And when there is, it's due to human malice and hypocrisy.
… to experience: Sometimes what we owe to God can put us in conflict with the civil authority, for example, conscientious objection to war, policy decisions concerning poverty and environment, etc. When conflicts arise, is it Caesar or is it God we serve?