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October 19, 1990     The Message
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October 19, 1990

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October 19, 1990 i t Commentary IIII The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5  Mass Readings By FATHER DONALD D|LGER Confrontation with Pharisees: payment of taxes to Rome Gospel Commentary for Sunday, October 21, 1990; Twenty.Ninth Sunday.Ordinary Time- Matthew 22:15-21 While the earlier chapters of Matthew are con- cerned with Jesus' ministry in Galilee, the later chapters deal with his ministry in Jerusalem. At least according to the four gospels the ministry in Jerusalem was constantly marred by conflict with the religious leaders of the Jews. We can readily understand this since Jesus challenged traditional ways of thought and action. By doing so he came into conflict with different groups among the religious leadership, the Pharisees who were pious Jews of the strict observance of the law and oral tradition; the Sadducees consisting mostly of the highpriestly families and their adherents; the scribes, most of whom were Pharisees and were the interpreters of the Scriptures. In today's gospel reading Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees. They bring with them a group Matthew calls "Herodians." These adherents are groupies of the Herod family, a dynasty of half- Jewish rulers who were puppets of the Roman oc- cupying power. The object of their visit with Jesus is stated plainly -- to "trap him in his talk." They have a question: "Is it lawful topay taxes to Caesar or not?" Caesar, at that time Tiberius, was the embodiment of the Roman state. The Romans had dominated and occupied Judea since 63 B.C. The questioners presumed that Jesus would have to answer their question either affirmatively or negatively. If he affirmed the duty of paying taxes to Rome he would lose credibility with the more patriotic and nationalistic Jews. If he advised not paying taxes to Rome he would be liable to a charge of rebellion against Rome. They thought they had him this time. Jesus asks to see a coin. They show him a denarius. The denarius was a common silver coin of the day and the usual pay for a day's work. Jesus asks for a description of the image and the inscription on the coin. It is the image of Tiberius Caesar and an inscription connecting him with Augustus Caesar and the title "pontifex max- imus." This was a title used by the high priest of ancient Roman state religion. The title was later as- sumed by the emperors and still later by the popes. Jesus avoided a direct "yes" or "no" answer and came up with a solution worthy of Solomon. Since everything on the coin pointed to Caesar or to the Roman state as its owner, Jesus said: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." With this answer the Pharisees would not accuse him of being unfaithful to Judaism, nor could the Herodians accuse him of being rebellious against Rome. In their amazement at this clever answer they are left speechless and walk away. In his inimitable prejudice against the Pharisees, Mat- thew must have relished this story with a holy glee. In its origin and development the purpose of the story was varied. If it is historical, and there is no reason to doubt it, it was part of Jesus' conflict with the religious leaders of the time. It is an ex- ample of how they tried to discredit him or have him arrested. For the Church after Jesus the story must have served as the answer to a question of early Christians: "Should Christians pay taxes to the Roman government or not?" The story would have told them that Jesus allowed the payment of taxes not only to legitimate government but even to foreign overlords when necessary. Matthew's use of the story would have an- swered the same question but had still another purpose. It was built into the context of a long series of confrontations between Jesus and the religious leadership. Matthew loves to put these people down because in doing so he shows the people of his religious community that the Pharisees of his and their time are no better than those of Jesus' time. The Pharisees were the sur- vivors of the destruction of Jerusalem and became rivals with Christianity for converts. It is for ihis reason that we sometimes find a strongly "anti- semitic" tone to statements in Matthew's gospel. For us the story still carries a lesson. It is legitimate for Christians to be part of the civil order, to be good citizens. That includes the pay- ment of taxes. Jesus allowed it. However, it does not rule out tile occasional withholding of taxes by conscientious people who disagree with govern- ment policies. Examples might be colossal govern- ment waste, military adventurism, or government revenue used for abortions. People who do this must also be ready to take the consequences of their civil disobedience. Thus they become an ex- ample to all of the supremacy of conscience over any human law. Other readings for Sunday, October 21, 1990: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; I Thessalonians 1:1-5 Please Get A Permanent VISA! 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The after-tax income of the richest 1 percent of U.S. residents -- 2.5 million with in- comes over $200,000 -- in- creased by 87 percent between 1980 and 1990, while the in- come of the poorest one-fifth of the population fell by 5 percent. But swapping a capital gains tax cut for higher taxes on the wealthy as proposed during budget negotiations isn't the route to take, in the view of Im- inoculate Heart of Mary Sister Amata Miller, an economist at Network, a Washington-based Catholic social justice lobby. "The richest Americans would end up paying less not more if such a trade were made," she said. II I IIII I AUTO TOPS SEAT COVERS 0 BOAT COVERS STEREO SALES & INSTALLATIONS 254-3943 FWY 50 EAST, BEHIND UPS CENTER EUGENE WELP, OWNER r mlm mlm m m m ,im mm m ,m mm mm mm mm m mm mm mm mm m mm m mlm mm mm m m (iml m i I This Coupon Worth 10% OFF Lunch Buffet Or Frt. ! Evenlng Buffet When Presented With Order. i I (Cannot Be Used With Any Other DPscount Offer) LUNCHEON BUFFET 0 Wed.- Thurs. - Fri. -- 11 A.M.-1.30 P.M. . Delicious. Food With FAST SERVICE _ :00IDNING BUFFE3'[ : o Featuring: CATFISH FIDD],ER8 & Other Delicious Entrees, I FUBLm TO Win1 US... I K of C- 3,, M"" "W"h'""" "='"'m FRIDAY EVENING BUFFET Featuring: CATFISH FIDDLERS & Other Delicious Entrees. | Im . im ii II I m ill i mll ill m l [|Y/'B'1 aOl [o] tqDl II II It4 =IOF,111F,'[o[OllIO111 :t00J = It'| DI-'Vll i  Illl IIIll   i     Blip allll  a  Illm I IIIID   qlllw IIIID (IBD i  i gilD. Oldenburg fund drive is underway The Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, have inaugurated a capital fund drive to raise the $300,000 needed for repair and renovation of the Motherhouse chapel. Several major dona- tions and some community pro- jects have already contributed up to half of this amount, accor- ding to Sister Ann Werner, O.S.F. Among maintenance needs are insulation of the roof, replastering and repainting the interior, providing adequate light and sound, and repairing and enhancing the capabilities of the organ. Improving the liturgical en- vironment has involved the en- tire community, with every sister invited to submit a 'floor- plan.' Among the im- provements suggested were more space for processions and more space for 25 to 30 sisters in wheelchairs. The Sisters chapel is used for daily and Sunday Mass and for community gatherings of as many as 400 people. The chapel is also used for gatherings of lay persons, Professio of Vows, Depalture ceremonies of foreign missionaries, Jubilee celebrations and Funerals of Sisters. ICA students, families and alumnae use the chapel. It is also the site --/vith special permission -- of occasional weddings of ICA graduates and motherhouse employees. Renovations will highlight the natural beauty of marble altars and flooring, majestic polished granite pillars and the elegant domed ceiling. Statuary and stained glass will remain inplace and will be appropriate- ly lighted. The desigiiated im- provements are consistent with the policies of the American Bishops in their official state- ment, "Environment and Art in Catholic Wors}fip." Sister Werner said friends and family who want to assist the sisters may send contribu- tions to the Development Of- rice, Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, In. 47036. Donors are invited to enclose a list of special intentions for which the sisters promise to pray. i i KNOX COUNTY SEED COMPANY VINCENNES i i i