29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Pharisees and Herodians were effective at designing trick questions, the ones that to whichever answer Jesus gave, would be wrong. Jesus finds himself in this situation in our Gospel again today. If he answered that it was unlawful to pay taxes to Caesar, then he would have been in a great deal of trouble with the Romans. Yet if he answered that taxes should be paid to Caesar it would contradict the idea that God was sovereign over all things.
But Jesus gives a brilliant answer by making a distinction between two different kingdoms. One is the kingdom of the world and one is the kingdom of God. He alludes to the fact that as believers, we must operate in these two kingdoms. But Jesus asks of us that whilst we are part the world we are not meant to be ‘of the world’. This means that as Catholics we don’t live by ‘worldly’ values and what we aspire towards is something far greater than the world has to offer. But at the same time, we have to operate and be a functioning part of the world in which we live. We have to adhere to the civil duties, and to work alongside and interact with people of all different creeds and beliefs.
God’s kingdom is here on earth, but it operates amidst a world that is fallen. Therefore, we have to be constantly on guard against the things of the ‘worldly kingdom’ that pull us away from God. We also have to be a light to all people, a sign to all that God’s kingdom is here on earth.