(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 10.22.2023).- At noon on Sunday, October 22, around 20,000 people (according to data from the Vatican Gendarmerie) gathered with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Angelus prayer. Prior to the prayer, the Pope delivered his customary Sunday address on the Gospel of the XXIX week of Ordinary Time. We now provide the Spanish translation of that speech.
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy tells us about some pharisees who join with the Herodians to set a trap for Jesus. They were always trying to set traps for Him. They go to Him and ask: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Mt 22:17). It is a ruse: if Jesus legitimizes the tax, He places Himself on the side of a political power that is ill-supported by the people, whereas if He says not to pay it, He can be accused of rebellion against the empire. A veritable trap. However, He escapes this snare. He asks them to show Him a coin, which bears the image of Caesar, and says to them: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21). What does this mean?
These words of Jesus have become commonplace, but at times they have been used incorrectly – or at least reductively – to talk about the relations between Church and State, Christians and politics; often they are interpreted as though Jesus wanted to separate “Caesar” from “God”, that is, earthly from spiritual reality. At times we too think in this way: faith with its practices is one thing, and daily life is another. And this will not do. No. This is a form of “schizophrenia”, as if faith had nothing to do with real life, with the challenges of society, with social justice, with politics and so forth.
In reality, Jesus wants to help us place “Caesar” and “God” each in their proper place. The care for earthly order belongs to Caesar – that is, to politics, to civil institutions, to social and economic processes, and we who are immersed in this reality must give back to society what it offers us, through our contribution as responsible citizens, taking care of what is entrusted to us, promoting law and justice in the world of work, paying our taxes honestly, committing ourselves to the common good, and so on.
At the same time, though, Jesus affirms the fundamental reality: that man belongs to God: all of man and every human being. And this means that we do not belong to any earthly reality, to any “Caesar”. We are the Lord’s, and we must not be slaves to any earthly power. On the coin, then, there is the image of the emperor, but Jesus reminds us that our lives are imprinted with the image of God, which nothing and no-one can obscure. The things of this world belong to Caesar, but man and the world itself belong to God: do not forget this!
We understand, then, that Jesus is restoring each one of us to his or her own identity: on the coin of this world there is the image of Caesar, but you – each one of us – which image do you carry within yourself? Let us ask ourselves this question: what image do I carry inside myself? You – whose is the image of your life? Do we remember that we belong to the Lord, or do we let ourselves be shaped by the logic of the world and make work, politics and money our idols to be worshipped?
May the Holy Virgin help us to recognize and honour our dignity and that of every human being.