There are a number of passages of Sacred Scripture
that get distorted in their meaning; today’s Gospel is one of them.
Specifically, when our Lord says,
“repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and to God what belongs to God.”
This passage got brought up when the Obama Administration
sought to force employers – including religious employers –
to provide contraception and abortion-causing drugs
as part of insurance.
As you know, the Catholic Church and many others fought this;
the Little Sisters of the Poor were on the front lines of this battle.
I regret to point out that one of the candidates for President
says he will revive that battle if he is elected.
All during this, we’ve heard people say,
“Render unto Caesar.” As if Christ is supposedly saying,
what government wants, government gets.
Let’s just get this clear right now. That’s wrong!
That is not what Jesus is saying in this Gospel.
First, notice the discussion was specifically about a tax—
And about a coin.
They show him the coin, and he asks, “whose image is this?”
That word is the key: because the coin bears Caesar’s image,
then it belongs to him. Let him have what bears his image.
Then listen what Jesus says next:
“And what belongs to God, give to God.”
The coin bears Caesar’s image;
But tell me: what bears God’s image, God’s inscription?
Well, that would be all of Creation!
“The heavens declare the glory of God,” Psalm 19 says;
creation bears witness to God, Paul wrote to the Romans.
Above all, the image of God is the human race.
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,”
is what God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit said
before they created humanity:
“male and female he created them.”
So when our government says it’s OK to destroy unborn children?
And to torture people as part of war?
Or to humiliate the poor, because they are poor?
Or to push aside the sick and elderly?
These are God’s treasure! They bear his image! Hands off, Caesar!
Do you know where this applies most clearly? Marriage.
Recall again what Genesis said:
“in the image of God…male and female, he created them.”
When we say we are made in the divine image, what does that mean?
God is the Creator above all.
While God created everything out of nothing, what do we do?
If you are an engineer or architect or in construction,
you can build whole cities,
but you have to labor with wood and stone and steel –
you can’t make it out of nothing.
If you are a writer or poet or painter,
you can create people and worlds and histories—
but they only exist on canvas, or the printed page,
or the silver screen.
You can’t breathe them into life.
But there is a moment—just one!—
when man in breathtaking audacity soars to the skies
and comes whisper-close to being just like God,
and in a moment of unrestrained love, generous and sacrificial,
actually does it! Actually creates something from nothing!
And not just any something, but the greatest of somethings—
another divine image, a human being that will live forever!
It’s when a man and woman come together in the marital embrace.
Marriage – requiring a man and a woman;
I repeat, requiring a man and a woman –
is when humanity is most fully the image of God!
Hands off, Caesar!
When Jesus said these words,
no one asked him, or anyone else,
what the laws should be, or who should govern.
But in our time, you and I make those decisions,
And we have an election in just a couple of weeks.
You and I decide who will be Caesar,
and what he will be able to do.
Remember that you and I are God’s “coin”;
We were inscribed with his Name when we were baptized
in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, of the Holy Spirit!
As the coins in our pockets get soiled and disfigured, so do we.
There is nothing God loves more than to restore his image, in you,
to make it beautiful, to make it shine!
That’s what he does in confession, in calling us back to him.
In the Gospel, they were all concerned about that coin,
bearing Caesar’s image.
But notice, Jesus couldn’t care less about the coin.
What matters supremely to him is you.