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Salvation

RENDER UNTO CAESAR.

A woman brought a parrot in a pet store.  She wanted companionship, someone to talk with.  The next day she brought the parrot back and said, “He won’t talk.”

The store manager asked does he have a mirror in his cage?  Parrots love mirrors.”  She bought a mirror and left.  The next day she came back and said, “The bird is still not talking.”

 

How about a ladder?  Parrots love ladders.  When he is happy he will talk.”  She bought a ladder and left.  The next day she came back complaining that even with the mirror and the ladder the bird was not talking.  The manager said, “I know what you need, the bird wants a swing.  He’ll be happy when he has a swing  and he’ll talk.”  She reluctantly bought a swing and left.

 

Sure enough the next she was back.  She had a sad face.  “The parrot died” she said.  “I’m sorry,” the manager said, “please tell me did he ever say anything before he died?”  The woman replied, :Yes, in a weak voice he asked me, ‘Don’t they sell any food at the pet store?”

 

It’s about priorities.  In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus being challenged by the Pharisees and a group called Herodians.  Now the Pharisees were the strict observant Jews who wanted to have nothing to do with the Romans and hated and opposed in whatever way they could giving any support or even acknowledgement of the Romans.  The Herodians, on the other hand, were more pragmatic and believed that the better way was to make some compromises on your beliefs and to work with the Romans in order to get ahead in society and have a more comfortable life.  This included even being willing to hedge on some of your religious beliefs.

 

Now the Pharisees by this time had tried numerous ways to discredit Jesus before the people by all kinds of arguments and attempts to show him to be a false prophet and not sent by God.  Jesus had outwitted them at every turn.  Now they came up with another plan which they thought was fool proof.  The Pharisees opposed the payment of taxes to the Romans.  The Herodians supported the payment of the taxes as a practice matter of survival and even bettering one’s life.

If Jesus said he supported the taxes, the Pharisees would have grounds to criticize him before the people for not being a true Jewish believer and therefore he could not be a messenger from God.  On the other hand, if he did not support the taxes, the Herodians would have grounds to charge him with promoting opposition to the Romans and could have him arrested.

 

What is Jesus to do?  Jesus asks for a Roman Coin that was used to pay the taxes.  He asks whose figure and whose inscription is on the coin.  They respond: “Caesar’s.”   Jesus says: “Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”

 

What does all this mean for us?  In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah made it clear that God can work through human governments, like that of King Cyrus, not a Jew, for the common good.  There is a place and justification for paying taxes.

But even as we pay taxes, we must remember that ultimately everything truly good in the world comes from God who made us, who loves us, and who longs to share with us all that we truly need.

 

We today are tempted to give our allegiance and efforts to similar false powers.  We struggle against a reliance on ideologies and systems that demand much but offer repayment only with passing tidbits of God’s goodness.  They may offer social status to a few, but not promote true community for the many, power to some but not trust for all, pleasure for the elite but hardship for the rest, wealth and riches to the powerful but at the destruction of nature and its beauty that was given to all.

 

God, who requires only faith, provides the love of family and friends, the wisdom to reveal His presence in every place, the power to bind up broken-hearts and a life that triumphs even over death.

 

So as we pay our taxes, and we all pay them in some form even to the sales taxes when we purchase items or a meal, they are to be used for the common good and we need to hold our elected and appointed officials accountable.  If we want to claim that we worship God on the outside, we need to make sure that we are worshiping God on the inside also.

 

Like the poor parrot whose tragic story I told at the beginning of this homily, we need not only all the things to entertain us in life like mirrors, ladders and swings, we also need real food: the Word of God and His Body and Blood.

Fr. Carroll Mizicko, OFM

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