Here are my recollections of my points from the weekend; I am sorry I did not find time during the prior week to write things out.
I began by pointing out that a line from this Gospel gets quoted frequently in conversation and political debate: "render unto Caesar"--and when that happens, it is often cited as if to say, Christians shouldn't be political because of what our Lord said; instead we should just keep quiet and leave politics alone.
However, that occurred at a time when there was no option for Jesus or anyone else to whom he was speaking having a role in politics. Had they organized a demonstration or a petition drive for a new Caesar, it wouldn't have ended well! We, however, do have this right--and we have a vote--and this is more than a right, it's a responsibility. In a sense, we are Caesar. What if our congressman never showed up to debate or vote? We'd find fault with that. So we should with ourselves if we don't take part in our government--and we bring our Christian values because that's part of who we are. I cited important votes on the ballot that we should be informed about that will affect our city and our state.
Then I mentioned the other part of the Lord's comments that get left out: "...and repay to God what belongs to God." The coin bore Caesar's image; what "coin" bears God's image? The human being. If we are to let Caesar have his taxes, then Caesar must keep hands off the human person. This is why we must speak up for defense of human life from conception to natural death; why we oppose abortion, baby-destroying stem-cell research, euthanasia; this is why we work to avoid the death penalty, and we are against torturing terrorists.
Then I called attention to the scene itself. From a human point of view, Jesus seems just a poor man--maybe he wore all the clothes he owned; maybe had a few coins, or none. Powerless--and they handed him the coin bearing the image of great Caesar, someone impressive, who was worshiped as a god. Of course, when you realize who Jesus really is, it's a comedy! Picture him beholding the coin, and asking, perhaps wryly, "oh--is this someone important? Who is this?"
Because, of course, the Lord had seen many Caesars come and go through the ages. The first reading recalls Cyrus--who, in his time, was a great emperor who is now forgotten. Many coins bearing many great figures have been placed in the Lord's hand over the ages, none of them matter in the long run.
Consider what that coin represents: money, wealth, things we work for, power, who's up and who's down...these things matter, but do they matter too much? Do we give them too much thought and concern? Meanwhile, we miss...the Hand that is outstretched. All those material things come and go, but His Hand remains. Perhaps we might take a moment to consider if some things dominate our concern...and instead reach out for that Hand.