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October 15, 1993     The Message
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October 15, 1993

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5, 1993 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 "- Commentary -- A test for Jesus: To pay or not to pay Gospel commentary for Oct. 17, 1993, Twenty-ninth Sunday, Ordinary Time. Cycle A: Matthew 22:15-21. Jesus is in Jerusalem for the final confrontation with his col- leagues among the Pharisees and with his enemies among the Sad- ducees. The Pharisees approach him first with one of the most dis- puted questions among the Jews under Roman occupation. First they flatter Jesus praising his sin- By FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST cerity, his truthfulness, and his im- partiality. The question: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar (the Roman govern- ment) or not?" Matthew tells us at the beginning of this story that the question was meant as a trap for Jesus. Now he assures his readers that Jesus was well aware of their intentions to snare him in his own Words. While the Pharisees, truly patriotic Jews, Would be opposed to paying taxes to the occupying power, they were accompanied by members of .Herod's court. These latter would be in favor of pay- mg taxes to Rome. The Herod family ruled parts of Palestine at that time but was subject completely to Rome. If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, the patriotic Pharisees could dis- credit him with the people for recognizing Roman rule over the Jews. If Jesus answered that it was not lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, the Herodians :ould, report him to Roman'officials for instigating t:l:n against Rome. Jesus would not have been t among patriotic Jews to encourage with- holding of taxes from the Roman oc- cupying power. Earlier in the first century this very issue had devel- oped into a major rebellion which was put down by Roman troops. What should Jesus answer? His answer shows the wisdom of Solomon. He asks to see a coin used to pay taxes. They show him a Roman denarius. On one side was the engraving of Tiberius Caesar, the current emperor, and his title, Pontifex Maximus," (a title later as- sumed by the Popes). Jesus asks: "Whose image and inscription is this?" They answer: "Caesar's." Then comes the famous quote: "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." The questioners knew he had them. They walked away in astonishment. If we accept the historicity of the story, and there is no reason to doubt it, it reflects some of the in-house debates between Jesus and other Phari- saical scribes, the people who studied and inter- preted the Scriptures in view of current problems. Jesus' method differed from that of the other scribes in his lack of quoting human authority, i.e. famous scribes from the past. His answers are more direct than was customary. Thus we read in the gospels: "He spoke with authority, and not like our scribes." When, however, the scribes are ac- companied by Herodian politicians, Jesus is con- fronted with a loaded situation. He handles it mas- terfully. Not all stories and traditions about Jesus were handed down in the Church. It is legitimate to ask why this story was preserved There is historical evidence that Christians began to debate among each other about paying taxes to the Roman gov- :i: i :ii!i ii ii,: , ii   iii ,, :/ bService .religious education teachers at Holy Name Church, Bloomfield, had an in-service before beginning their new year. The teachers include, above, from left, Sarah Mary Pierson, Sue Yake, Vickie Long, Sharon Vogler, Pam Gremore, Laura Mary Pat Wells and Karen Cook. DELICIOUS GERMAN FOOD STEAQK SALAD BAR PARTIES YOUR CATERING NEEDS, CALL Ave., Jasper, IN Jill Ann Admtnlatrat 812-,451S Prairie Village Uving Center FOR COMPLETE ELECTRICAL SERVICE FISCHER ELECTRIC INC. SCHNELLVILLE, IN 389-2418 American National Bank BickneU - Sandborn Vincennes Drive-in Facilities - Member F.D.i.C. A Full Service Bank i II HAUB STEAK HOUSE PRIME STEAKS - SEAFOOD - CHICKEN {1} 768.6462 LARGE PARTY ROOMS Haubstaflt, Ind. I I I ernment. This debate would have become all the more focused after the persecution of Christians in Rome during the reign of Nero in the early Sixties of the first century. This story of Jesus' response on the matter of taxes would have been used to legit- imize the payment of taxes. When Matthew picks up the story it becomes part of his presentation of the conflict between Jesus and his religious and political opposition. Here and in the next few chapters Matthew shows how this conflict ultimately led to Jesus' arrest, trial, and execution. Luke 23:2 takes the story of paYment of taxes into Jesus' trial when he states as one of the accusations against Jesus that he "tbrbids us to pay taes to Caesar, an accusation disproved by the story chosen for today's gospel reading. The stories about Jesus preserved in our four gospels also have current value. We ask, therefore, what the episode about paying taxes to Caesar teaches us. It declares legitimate for Christians to be an intimate part of civil society, to be good citi- zens. Jesus allowed it, perhaps even encouraged it. However, it does not rule out the occasional with- holding of taxes for reasons of conscience because of disagreement with government policies. Exam- ples might be: colossal government waste, tax money used for abortions, disagreement with mili- tary objectives. People who do withhold taxes must also be ready to take the consequences of their civil disobedience. Thus they may become an example to all of the supremacy of conscience over human law. Other readings: Isaiah 45:1, 4.6; I Thessalonians 1:1.5. I I I III I Hi-Tech Sheet Metal Inc. Residential, Industrial & Commercial Heating & CoolingI Installation Sales & Service I 422-9242 1 ; Operated by Michael and Patricia Koch 15 S, Third Avenue, Evansvia I I IIIII 1 TFs " . Box 68 Montgomery, Indiana 47558 Donald J. Traylor President Phone: 486-3285 III I I AUTO TOPS. SEAT COVERS. BOAT COVERS STEREO SALES & INSTALLATIONS 254-3943 HWY 50 EAST, BEHIND UPS CENTER EUGENE WELP, OWNER Medical Arts Pharmacy 3700 Bellemeade Avenue Phone 477-1532 Donald Gutzweiler City-Wide Delivery Duncan's Riverside Pharmacy Prescnption Sencice Drugs. Sundries - Cosmehcs Magazines - "We Dehver" Corner Riverside and Governor Evansville 422-9981 II ] Stratman's Pharmacy City-Wide Delivery 413 Locust Street John and Judy Stratman 425-5293 PAUL'S PHARMACY Paul Mayer, Owner 2107 W. Franklin St. 425-4364 Plaza Pharmacy ' Newburgh Plaza Shopping Center Fast Prescription Service Ken and Rebecca Hacker 853-7141 I i I Oak Hill Pharmacy Prescription Specialists Hwy. 62 and N. Welntch Ave. LARRY SCHULTHE1S, Prop. 425,4422