‘Give to Caesar What is Caesar’s & to God What is God’s’
The Pharisees in today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) try and catch JESUS out with a question about whether it is lawful paying taxes to Caesar. And Our Lord responds by taking a coin with Caesar’s head on it saying, “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Our Lord is teaching here that we should show respect to the secular authorities who govern us. We should pay our taxes, because we receive many benefits from the State, such as public services, health care etc, and we must observe the laws of the land provided they are not sinful or contrary to the Law of God. If they are against the Law of God they do not bind us, because there can be no real law against that of God Who created us. So in this sense we give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but we must also give to God what belongs to Him by worshipping Him and obeying His Law. But this is not to say the two (Caesar and God) are equal. Far from it, for we must always put God first even if it means we will suffer for it.
St Thomas More (1478-1535), was Chancellor of England during the reign of King Henry VIII (1491-1547). Henry wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon because she couldn’t give him a son and heir, but the Pope reaffirmed the divinely revealed truth that no power on earth can dissolve a valid marriage and therefore Catherine of Aragon was his lawful wife. Thomas More, being a lawyer was asked to defend Henry’s divorce but he would not. He made it clear that no king or government has authority over the Sacraments and that no king can make himself above God and the Church. He told Henry, “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” Henry was furious and then claimed that he was head of the Church in England, and granted himself the annulment. Thomas was arrested and also imprisoned in the Tower of London. False charges were brought against him. He was tried in Westminster Hall and then condemned to death for high treason and beheaded.
The drama of the Gospel is being played out all around us today. As our once Christian society becomes more and more at odds with God’s Law, we may well have to suffer for being faithful. Heaven has given us specific spiritual practices for these times: frequent Confession, Holy Mass, the Rosary, reading the Bible, praying as a family (especially the Rosary), consecrating yourself to the Sacred Heart of JESUS and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But let us have no fear, for God is always faithful to His promise, and that promise is a crown of everlasting heavenly glory.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC