In our contemporary society, as a result of separation of church and state, we do not make a connection between what happens in the secular world and what happens in the ecclesiastical circle. We forget that human beings are a multifaceted entity. The person who lives in the society, is the same person who believes in God, and worships within the church, or acknowledges God, the wholly Order, or the higher power. This dichotomy leads to hypocrisy and inauthenticity in peoples’ lives. Some are angels and saints in the church, but something else in the socio-economic and political life. It makes it difficult for the same person with religious affiliation to live out his or her beliefs in the day to day living. Religious beliefs must be practiced and should be made to shine out in the secular life. The sacred and the secular are two sides of the same coin.
Today, the creator of the universe steps in, to correct our misconception of thinking that the way he works in the sacred circle, is different from the way he works in the secular. He is the one God of the whole universe. That is why today, God speaks through his prophet Isaiah, and addresses Cyrus, whom he has chosen, a non-jew, who did not even know him, as his (God’s) anointed. For the sake of Jacob, his servant, of Israel his chosen one, God has called Cyrus by name, giving him a title, though he did not know God. It is through God’s power that Cyrus will be able to make his conquests. It is through his right hand he grasps, to subdue nations, making kings to run, opening doors, and leaving gates unbarred, that God’s own purposes will be accomplished. By this, we know that God could use anybody as his instrument of executing his will. The will of God is that the Gentiles will come to know him, the true God. Through the military conquests of Cyrus, this is realized.
St. Paul would tell us that there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by him. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgement upon themselves (Romans 13:1-2). St. Peter himself enjoined us to be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him, for the punishment of evildoers, and approval of those who do good. It is the will of God that by doing good, we may silence the ignorance of foolish people ( 1 Peter 2:13-15).
In our gospel reading, the Pharisees, in their plot against Jesus, wanted to entrap him in speech. As a result, they and the Herodians wanted Jesus to tell them, whether to pay census tax to Caesar or not. This was a heavy political trap. Jesus demanded to see the coin with which the tax is paid. When they handed him the coin, he asked whose image and inscription are on it. At their reply that they belong to Caesar, Jesus asked them to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
With this, Jesus makes it very clear to Christians that it is morally, civilly imperative and dutiful to contribute to the common good, through the payment of just taxes. Every Christian should be a true citizen of heaven and a true citizen of earth. Our entry into the Kingdom of God, or our vision of God in the end, is prepared by the good life we live here on earth as good citizens. Our faith must be practiced and be translated into life by keeping of God’s commandments, living of life of love, our living Christ-like life and imitating him, replicating his life, death and resurrection with ours.
This is the faith which St. Paul preached to the Thessalonians for which he thanks God today, not only in the word he preached, but in the Spirit who inspired that faith as powerful force in their hearts. That is why St. Paul emphasizes that the gospel preached to them did not come to them in word alone, but it came in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with much conviction. May our faith like that of the Thessalonian community be strong and win God’s approval through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.