Setting a Trap for Jesus


Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

Sometimes we are put in situations where we are asked to choose between two options that will respond to a particular need or reality. Our decision will make some happy and others really disappointed. It is really a difficult position to be in, especially when we know our decision will impact the people we care for.

In today's gospel something similar is happening to Jesus. He is put to the test by some of the Pharisees whose intentions now are to find one more reason to put Jesus to death. After the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus, giving the impression that they thought well of him, they asked him if it was lawful to pay the census tax to Cesar or not?" In other words, asking if paying taxes to Cesar was an action that fits with the Law of God. This was a tough situation for Jesus. If he were to say no, then the Roman authorities would go after him for opposing their authority and power. If Jesus were to say yes, the Pharisees and other believers would be disappointed because they saw paying taxes to Cesar as an acknowledgment of a pagan's nation and power over Israel.

No matter what answer Jesus gave, it would have grave consequences for him. Nevertheless, after Jesus questioned them about the image on the coin, he gave an unexpected answer: "Then repay to Cesar what belongs to Cesar and to God what belongs to God." By including both possibilities, Jesus gets out of the trap set for him in terms of either or. He also led his listeners to see that both were possible when done in good conscience. In this way, Jesus directed them to a greater good, something that some of the Pharisees lacked.

Something similar can happen in our daily lives when we put our .relationship with the Lo.rd and others in terms of "either ... or." Jesus teaches us that "both" is also an option that can lead us to something greater.

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.