Sunday, Oct. 22, is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Mass Readings: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; Psalms 96:1, 3-5, 7-10; 1Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21.
Today’s readings give us an unexpected reason for hope. It’s a hope that comes even though we are under the control of the state, often run by people who have no strong commitment to God.
The Gospel tells the story of Jesus’ famous “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” remark.
His words outsmarted the Pharisees, who presented him a no-win proposition: Back the Romans’ taxes and incur the wrath of the people, or reject the taxes and incur the wrath of the Romans.
“Show me the coin that pays the census tax,” says Jesus. “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
It’s Caesar’s. So Jesus says it’s his.
In reaffirming the Roman emperor’s authority, Jesus is addressing a principle that stands to this day.
The Catechism (2242) says that Catholics must follow God first, “refusing obedience to civil authorities when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience.”
But, nonetheless, “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country,” says the Catechism (2240).
That can seem wrong sometimes. Some of our tax money goes to Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion business. We pay it anyway. Sometimes there seems no good choice on the ballot. We vote anyway. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to defend America. We defend American anyway.
The first reading, from Isaiah, says something startling that can comfort us. It depicts the anointing of a Gentile king. “I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not,” says God. “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun, people may know that there is none besides me. I am the Lord; there is no other.”
That is quite a source of hope — a hope in God that looks past secular authority to see his direction.
The second reading calls us to “endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father.”
We don’t hope in kings, but we do hope in the King of Kings who can see his will done despite the shortcomings of kings and secular leaders.
Tom Hoopes is writer
in residence at
and author of The Fatima