29th Sunday In Ordinary Time Year A

     In today’s Gospel the Pharisees try to trick Jesus into committing a crime by asking Him if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar? Jesus very cleverly responds by asking whose image is on the coin, and when they answer Caesar He tells them to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Today’s gospel should challenge us to ask ourselves whose image do we bear because when we know whose image we bear we know to whom we belong?

     In the book of Jeremiah we hear “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you,” and in the book of Genesis we hear “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them.[1] The bible is clear, you and I, from the moment we were conceived, bear the image of God himself. Just as the coin, which bears the image of Cesar belongs to Cesar, we who bear the image of God, belong to God and if there was ever any doubt to how precious we are to God we need look no further than the Cross.

     The situation of the world today begs us to ask the question; if life is indeed so precious, than why is it often treated as a disposable commodity? It seems that every day in the news we see violence, hatred, and immorality plague even our own city. While it is tragic that in our time “human life is sometimes narrowly viewed in terms of being inconvenient or unwanted, unproductive or lacking arbitrarily imposed human criteria”[2] we must remember that all life, which bears God’s image, is a gift to us. I think there is so much injustice in our world, because humanity has lost sight of Him, in whose Image we are created.

     Sadly God is becoming more and more unwelcome in society; one can hardly even mention or address Him in the public square without being threatened with a lawsuit. The further we get from God as a society, the further we get from our image and the more we forget who we are and why our lives have dignity and value. As a result, life is no longer seen as a precious gift, but rather a burden and an obstacle to be gotten rid of; so terrible that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is replaced by the license to choose. If we want to restore the Image of God in society, then we must be who we are meant to be! We must be living images of God to others!

     While many people in our country want to try and convince us that our country is a secular state, our country is not a secular state. History does not lie and history shows us that our country has very deep religious roots. Certainly there is no official state religion and there is room for both believers and non-believers, but the United States was never intended to be a secular country. Almost all of the Founding Fathers were Christians, and all the foundations of our country are based on a Judeo – Christian faith, so if we remove God from the public life we also chip away at the foundation from which our country was built.

     While we often hear people challenge us to a separation of Church and State we must remember that separation of Church and State does not, and cannot ever mean separating our own Catholic faith from our public witness because to do so would require us to deny who we are. Asking a Catholic to live this kind of separation of Church and State would be similar to asking a married person to act in public as though he is not married. This call to keep our faith private is a call to disunity; it calls us to live hypocritical lives.

     Today’s Gospel makes it clear that we should render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but to God what belongs to God. We must always remember that political leaders draw their authority from God and we owe no leader any kind of cooperation that will lead to grave evil. We as Catholics have the obligation to change bad laws and resist grave evil through our witness of life and how we vote. In fact the greatest respect we can show our civil authority is to witness to our Catholic faith and moral convictions without apology.

     We cannot live our lives divided. We can’t come to Church on Sunday and profess our faith in God and then leave into the public square to pretend God’s laws do not matter. We can’t be Catholic and not care about the mass killing of innocent life that goes on in our country through abortion As Catholics we believe in the sanctity of life from the moment life begins at conception. It is simply impossible for us to be Catholic and be “pro-choice.” As Catholics we believe in the sanctity of life because all people are made in the image and likeness of God and if we don’t believe in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception we should stop lying to ourselves, other and God by claiming something we are not.

     If we want to see a greater respect for human life in our country we must be the change we want to see. We serve our country best by serving God first; by living our Catholic faith without apology. We render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar but we can never give to Caesar what belongs to God and we must work to defeat any injustices that occur when Caesar tries to take what belongs to God by actively living out our faith at all times.

[1] Jer 1:5 and Gen 1:27

[2] Terence Cardinal Cooke, Letter on the Sanctity of Life to the people of the Archdiocese of New York on October 9th 1983 accessible at http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/cardcookeltr.htm

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