A software designer, a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, a security specialist, a financial manager, an architect, a teacher, an engineer. Most parents would be pleased to hear their son or daughter wanted to pursue one of those professions.
But many parents would not be thrilled if their child said, “I want to be a politician; I want to pursue a career in politics.” That is especially true today, when many people hold a negative view of politicians and elected officials.
Parents also know that if their son or daughter ventures into politics their child and their entire family will be investigated by journalists and by digital prosecutors lurking in social media. Every comment, every action from the past will be judged according to the current norm of social correctness.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21), Jesus touches on a subject related to politics. Jesus is asked whether he believes it is proper for the Jewish people to be paying the census tax imposed by the occupying Romans. Jesus looks at a Roman coin with an image of the emperor and then answers, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."
That statement which is quoted to this very day seems to imply that Christians have certain obligations to the state and certain obligations to God.
The obligation to the state involves the payment of taxes, while the obligation to God involves far more. It involves love of God, love of neighbor, and living according to the teachings and example of Jesus.
But we might consider that rendering to Caesar means more than paying taxes. It may mean also giving of our time and talent; it may mean getting involved in political life.
As Christians we pray that God’s kingdom of love, justice, and peace will come into our troubled world. As we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come.”
God’s kingdom will become a reality not only because of our prayers but also because of our actions. As we know, praying for the hungry is not enough, we also need to feed them. Praying for a better world is not enough, we also need to get involved in helping to bring that about – and that involves more than paying taxes.
In this Sunday’s First Reading (Isaiah 45:1, 4-6), we hear how God chose King Cyrus as his agent to free the Jewish exiles in Babylon.
In our day, we are the people God has called through baptism and confirmation to work to hasten the coming of his kingdom; we are the ones chosen to continue the work of Jesus.
This Sunday’s Gospel may be calling us to get involved in the world of politics. By doing so we will be doing something good for “Caesar” and we will be living as Christians who express our faith not only in prayer but also in action.
As Pope Francis put it, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself …. Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good” (Pope Francis, Daily Homily of September 16, 2013).
Once we realize that the world of politics is where we help to bring about the kingdom of God, then parents will be glad to hear their child say, “I want to be a politician; I want to pursue a career in politics.”
© 2020 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski