Render unto Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God's
Back in the 1990s, the Canadian bishops issued a major statement on the economy. After consulting with various experts, they crafted a statement reminding political and economic leaders of their moral responsibility towards the poor, the unemployed and those who bore the brunt of social and economic inequality. Their statement was intelligent, well-researched, and rooted in Gospel values – and yes, critical of existing policies.
In response, a prominent Canadian businessman – I think it was Conrad Black! – told the bishops to basically "mind their own business." He quoted today's Gospel: "Render unto Caesar's what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's". In other words, bishops (and Christians in general) should leave their faith in the sacristy and not meddle in the "things of the world".
Today's Gospel must not be read as implying that Jesus saw the secular and the sacred as two completely separate, distinct, and unrelated worlds. As social beings, called to live together in harmony, social and political organization is necessary. Jesus takes a coin, and sees the image and likeness of Caesar, the political power. Jesus looks at human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, and sees something precious and beautiful, to be honoured and protected in their inherent dignity. And our social and political structures and decisions must always keep this deeper reality first and foremost. Even in the middle of hotly-contested and divisive election campaigns!
Jesus invites us to constantly break down the false dualities that divide politics and religion, matter and spirit, secular and sacred, into two disconnected worlds. God desires every aspect of our lives - family, sexuality, business, politics, religion - to be open to the transforming power of God's love, and to the ethical call to concretely live out the challenge of that love.
Please join us for our online Mass at St. Monica’s at 11 AM this Sunday, October 18th.
After Mass, at 12.30 PM if you are interested in continuing this conversation on faith and politics in our current context, I will be hosting a parish Zoom meeting so that we can explore these questions together.
Looking forward to being with you – in person or virtually – this weekend!
Blessings to you all,
Fr. Raymond Lafontaine E.V., Pastor