Oct. 22, 2017: 29th Sunday A
When was the last time you used your U.S. passport? Whether you’re on a cruise ship to Caribbeans, driving down to Mexico, or flying to Europe, a U.S. passport certifies that you are a citizens of this country, entitling you to travel under its protection. Do we appreciate our special privilege of being citizens of this country, and do we exercise our responsibilities for receiving these privileges? When we were born in this country, we became citizens of this earthly nation. But in actuality, we have dual citizenship. With baptism, we became citizens of Heaven as St. Paul told the Ephesian Christian community, “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19) How are we to exercise our dual citizenship?
Jesus’ response to the religious leaders in today’s Gospel will serve as our guide in answering our question. The religious leaders tried to trap and discredit Jesus by forcing him to admit that he was either an insurrectionist revolutionary against Roman government or a collaborator with the hated Romans. When presented the question as to whether to pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus replied, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." Jesus’ answer eluded the narrow human categories set up by the religious leaders and invited them to define themselves by who they truly were--sons of God the Most High. Jesus’ prayer to his Father later in the Garden of Gethsemane revealed this truth, “Father, they do not belong to the world anymore than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one...Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:14-17) We are not defined by our pursuit of earning coins by the sweat of our brow, but by the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Someone beautifully and succinctly summarized our responsibilities of being dual citizens of earth and heaven, “We, the ordinary people of the streets, believe with all our might that this street, this world, where God has placed us, is our place of holiness.” (MADELEINE DELBRÊL) Christ commands us to live out our earthly life with justice, responsibility, and collaboration. There are occasions when government calls us to overlook what is due to God and to force us to forget that we are children of God. When human laws carelessly push aside the sacredness of life as the gift from God, then we Christians should infuse the politics and marketplaces with the divine light and wisdom of God’s truth. As for fulfilling their responsibilities of being citizens of their earthly nation, Christians are to obey all just human laws, pay legally assessed taxes, and take an active and informed part in the political processes by voting. Meanwhile, we owe God our adoration, love, obedience, repentance, and gratitude. We are to support His Church by participating at sacred worship, offering financial support, and sharing our gifts and talents with our faith community. Heavenly Father called us out of our mother’s womb to proclaim God’s word through our lives, to raise our children in God’s truth, and to teach them to reverence Him. When we reflect upon these responsibilities due to God, are we actually living what we claim to believe? Are we living in this world while not being of this world?