Tuesday 2nd June 2020
9th week in ordinary time year II
2 Peter 3:11-15,17-18, Mark 12:13-17
The Easter season has ended, and we begin the ordinary season of the calendar year of the Church. Nevertheless, we are to continue to ruminate the teachings of Jesus during the Easter season and rely on the help of the Holy Spirit to go through this period. We should also ask for God's direction and allow ourselves to be influenced by the Holy Spirit this season.
As I reflect on the gospel reading of today, the words of Jesus to the Chief priest and scribes who came to ask him a question reminds me of an encounter with a police man on the highway. Before the lockdown, I was driving on a highway when I was stopped by a policeman. When he discovered that I am a priest, he said there was no need to ask for my vehicle papers and drivers license as he was asking from others, but he asked for my prayers. After praying for him, he asked if I had anything to give to Caesar. I just laughed over it because I did not want to waste more time with him, but he insisted that I give him something, quoting the words of Jesus that we should give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
Many Christians have been very angry with the fact that the government had placed a ban on religious gathering during this Covid-19 pandemic. They believe that many governments officials are not Christians or even religious people, thus they have no right to meddle with religious activities. This was exactly the way the Jews felt in the gospel reading of today. Rome was the political power ruling over the Jews, therefore, they were required to pay tax to Caesar. Many of them were not happy because Caesar was not a Jew but a pagan. They therefore, were looking for ways to break the bonds with Rome and stop being indebted to them.
The Chief priest and scribes who came to Jesus today to ask if they should continue to pay taxes to Caesar, may have come with a genuine concern, but there was also an underlining ulterior motive in trying to make Jesus have problems with Caesar if he tells them to stop paying tax to Caesar. Jesus therefore made them to understand that as children of God, we still live in the same society with those who do not have the same religious inclinations with us; we are therefore not to despise them, but try and work with them while praying for them to be converted.
The statement of Jesus therefore which has been misconstrued in various ways, does not give us license to do evil in the name of giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Christians do not fight with the government or make trouble with the civil authorities. Religion and politics are always on the process of dialogue, they both work for the betterment of humanity from the spiritual and temporal perspective respectively.
In your various places of work and encounter with secular policies, never forget that you are a Christian. Do your work with Caesar very well, but never forget that you are a Christian.
This is the concern of Peter in the first reading of today, that in whatever we do, only the thought of doing good which will earn us the new heaven and new earth promised by Jesus should motivate us and not pleasure or material gain. May God give us the grace to continue to be religious in the midst of the various vicissitudes of life. God help us. Amen.
Fr Michael Osatofoh Eninlejie MSP.