October 22, 2023
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Readings for Today
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Matthew 22:15–17
It has been said that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In other words, two people who are enemies with each other will often join together if they see an opportunity to jointly attack an even greater enemy. This is what was happening in today’s Gospel. Jesus was considered the greatest enemy of the Pharisees and the Herodians, and both of these groups joined together in a plot to trap Jesus even though they greatly disliked each other.
The Pharisees were very nationalistic and were strict observers of the Law of Moses. It was their view that the people should not have to pay taxes to the Romans, and many of the people agreed. The Herodians supported the Romans and, therefore, were supporters of Herod, the Jewish ruler appointed by the Roman Emperor. One of Herod’s responsibilities was to obtain taxes from the Jews for use by the Roman government. Those who opposed the paying of taxes to the Romans could even be put to death.
This joint questioning of Jesus had one goal: to get Him in trouble. If Jesus said it was unlawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Herod’s soldiers could arrest Him. If Jesus said that the people should pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees could turn the people against Him. It appeared to be a lose-lose question posed to Jesus. Of course, Jesus’ answer was perfect. Without violating the Law of God, He also refrained from violating the civil law. Upon hearing His answer, all who heard Him “were amazed, and leaving him they went away.”
The lesson learned from this passage is an especially important lesson to apply to family life. It is very common for conflicts to arise from time to time among those who are close to each other. When that happens, we can often take the approach of trying to trap the other person and trip them up with our deceptive reasoning. When this happens between two people, the conversation often turns into a shouting match with each party seeking only to find fault with the other. The solution to such situations is simple. Every conflict must be resolved by the truth. Jesus did this perfectly. He did not attack when He was attacked. He did not defend Himself irrationally. He did not shy away from the confrontation. He did not manipulate the truth to His own advantage. Instead, He spoke openly and honestly the full truth and refused to engage his opponents in their trickery.
Consider this question. What if you were in Jesus’ position and the Pharisees came to you, asking you this question? What would you be tempted to answer? Most likely, you would try to answer them in such a way that appeased them. You might whisper, “We shouldn’t pay the taxes but don’t tell that to the Herodians.” And if the Herodians were to ask you that question, you might be tempted to give a different answer that appeased them.
Oftentimes, when we feel as though another person is trying to trap us, condemn us, or challenge us, we become more concerned about our defense than with the honest truth. We can become afraid to say anything that will give them reason to attack us. We will be tempted to twist our answers rather than speak forthrightly with sincerity and honesty. This will never resolve a conflict. The only way to resolve anything is with the truth.
Reflect, today, upon how you work to resolve conflict when it arises. Are you more like the Pharisees and Herodians whose only goal was to trick, trap and win? Do you see the other as an enemy in those moments? Or do you strive to be like Jesus who didn’t shy away from the conversation, answering honestly and directly? Of course, the truth was easy for Jesus since He was without any fault. In our lives, the truth may require that we admit our sin and apologize when confronted. However, if the truth, the full truth and nothing but the truth is our goal, then our conversations will imitate Jesus and, most often, a peaceful resolution will ensue.
My truthful Lord, Your wisdom is perfect and Your words are truth. Please give me the gifts of wisdom and all truth, especially when conflicts arise. In those moments, please keep me from reacting in an angry and defensive way so that I can always be an instrument of the unity You desire. Jesus, I trust in You.
Novena to Saint Jude
For Desperate Situations and Desperate Cases
Prayed anytime of year, especially October 19–27
Saint of the Day – Saint John Paul II, Pope—Optional Memorial
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday