29th Sunday Cycle A
Isaiah 45:1,4-6, Ps96:1,3-5, 7-10, Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22: 15-21
29th Sunday Cycle ATHE SACRED AND THE SECULAR PARTS OF OUR LIVES
A few years ago, a team of footballers in the UK, made up of what we call, “Born-again Christians”, decided to call their team, “Christian United”, and they requested to print the name ‘Jesus’ on their football shirts. They wanted, they said, to proclaim the name of Jesus, because as they explained, “Jesus Christ has changed their lives”. Their request was refused by the Football Association.
We may admire, “Christian United” for their efforts to bring their belief into the world of sport. As Christians we should all try to live our faith as fully as possible. Surprisingly, it is not always evident how exactly we should do so, especially in everyday life. Displaying a ‘Jesus’ badge so that people know that we are his followers may appeal to some Christians but it is no proof at all of a truly Christian life.
How then we may ask, do we show the world in which we live that our Christian faith is genuine and not just a badge or a sticker placed on our shirts or stuck on our cars.
This is the problem behind the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees, which we have just listened to in the Gospel reading. The question put to Jesus was formed in such a way as to be a deliberate trap to embarrass and compromise him. But Jesus neither hesitates in his reply nor hides his position. He speaks out fearlessly; “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar- and to God what belongs to God”. There very briefly put, is the Christian’s position; “Do your duty to God, as well as to the State”. Sometimes we appear to be faced with a dilemma- how to live in the two spheres at once; for Jesus it was no problem. He came to do his Father’s will and he persevered. The way of Jesus is to recognize that the kingdom of God is not a totally different sphere from the world in which we live. When Jesus become a man he proclaimed that the kingdom of God was here. As a result, when Christians build up the world around them, they are in fact, building up the kingdom of God on earth. There is no necessity for ‘Jesus’ badges or stickers. When Jesus is in our hearts then every action of ours takes on a new significance: we are, at the same time giving to God what is God’s and Caesar what is Caesar’s.
It would be a tragic error if our concern to be good citizens of the kingdom of heaven led us to neglect our duties as a citizen of the state. As good Christians we have a solemn duty to do all we can to work (promote) for the common good of our society. This duty does not stop with the paying of our fair share of financial burden by paying our various rates and taxes so that our society can function effectively. For some of us this duty will demand that we use our talents in local or even national administration: not for private gain or personal glory but for the good of our neighbor and ultimately, for the glory of God.
We are often critical of the way our society is governed: we protest that morality and justice are being ignored. Such criticism and protest are in the end simply destructive. Too often, it is all too true that Christians are reluctant to participate actively in the administration (public life) of the society in which they live.
If our society is to reflect Christian values, we must have Christians prepared to play (Playing) a leading role. The experience of our own days shows us the tragic results when Christians abdicate their responsibilities and leave the running of society to the greedy and to the god-less.
I think a concluding word about the on-going registration exercise is not out of place here. We cannot remain indifferent to any elections which are to take place in Nigeria (beginning with the local government elections in December). It could amount to a sin of omission if through cynicism or skepticism, we abstain from participating actively in the forthcoming elections. All good Catholics should (will) ensure that they registered (now) so that they will be in a position to vote in the (December and all) subsequent elections.
To do otherwise is to place (hand over) your destiny in the hands of the ungodly. We want administration marked by peace, unity and social justice; we can only do this by ensuring that those who rule us will promote God’s kingdom on earth by promoting Christian values.