Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pharisees & Herodians

Latest weeks Sunday readings told of the attemped entrapment of Jesus by the Pharisees and the Herodians.

I thought about this reading as it relates to today's abortion issue. I'd plan on posting on it but Father Chas Canoy of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Ann Arbor, Michiagan beat me to the punch.

He does a better job than I could ever do:

“Render Unto Caesar”

Today’s Gospel that touches on the nature of civic responsibility is a fitting one as our country heads into voting booths in a couple of weeks. To understand the Gospel better we have to know a little bit about the groups involved. It begins with a group of Pharisees teaming up with a group of Herodians. These two groups do not like each other, they have opposite political views. It’s like a group of Democrats and Republicans teaming up to take out a third threat so that they can go back to the business of fighting for power between themselves. I guess the people in power back then didn’t like third parties either.

So, these two groups were trying to trap Jesus. They try to force him to take sides, so as to justify one of the groups taking action against him.. The Herodians favored Roman rule, and the Pharisees wanted independence. So they asked him, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If Jesus went against the tax, the Herodians would go after him on the basis of treason since the words might instigate a revolt on the tax the Jews were charged. But if Jesus spoke in favor of the tax, then the Pharisees would make him out to be a disloyal son of [Israel], favoring Roman tyranny over national independence. So what should Jesus do? First of all, he calls them out, letting them know that he knows what they are up to; “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” But then he actually takes them up on the question and asks for a Roman coin. He asks them whose image in on the coin, and they answer, “Caesar’s.” And so Jesus cleverly responds, “ ‘Then render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,’ When they heard it they marveled, and they left him and went away.” So Jesus evades their trap.

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