God vs. Caesar

This week’s Gospel reading is from Matthew, 22:15–21, in which the Pharisees try to trip up Jesus by asking Him if it is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar. Jesus asks to see the coin that is used to pay the tax, points out Caesar’s image on it and says, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco points out the reading’s timelessness—and timeliness—in today’s Magnificat mediation:

The various emperors of the world can strip the Church of every resource, discredit it in every way, make it powerless to do the works of the Gospel, but no one will ever be able to take the Gospel away, the joy of its Lord. … No earthly authority will be able to possess the heart of man forever through the propaganda of lies, with masked promises and apparent democracies. The conscience can remain dazed for a long time, but sooner or later, something happens that reawakens and regenerates it, since at its root there is an indestructible core: the desire for truth and the need for the good. Let no one be deceived: Christianity can never be eliminated because the Lord said, Do not be afraid, I am with you until the end of the world, and because the human soul is made for God. And this is stronger than all of the persecutions and all of the lies that circulate so rapidly in the air today.

Today—in the name of values like equality, tolerance, rights—the aspiration is to marginalize Christianity, to create a world order without God, where differences are glorified on one side and crushed on the other. This is true for … the peoples and nations. However, if we look at the results, we have to conclude that it began with good intentions, but with erroneous decisions. The overbearing will to homologate, to want to condition the profound visions of life and behaviors, the systematic annulment of cultural identities—all of this resembles … a journey toward … a deleterious … refoundation that the population recognizes as oppressive and arrogant, where Christianity is considered divisive because it does not bow down before the emperor du jour.

History attests that when those in power concentrate on their own survival out of personal ambition, turning away from the common good, it is the time of decline. Marginalizing Christianity from the public sphere is a sign, not of intelligence, but of fear. It is failing to see, through the dark clouds of prejudice, that society can benefit from Christianity. … The more one seriously studies the origins of humanism, and the more he recognizes the existence of something that is not only spiritual, but distinctly Christian.

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