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Gospel for Sunday, October 22: Matthew 22: 15-21

XXIX Sunday A

15Then the Pharisees went away and held a council to see how to catch him in his speeches. 16They therefore sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, to say to him: “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God according to truth. You are not in awe of anyone, because you do not look in the face of anyone. 17So, tell us your opinion: is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar or not?” 18But Jesus, knowing their malice, replied: “Hypocrites, why do you want to test me? 19Show me the tribute coin.” And they presented him with a denarius. 20He asked them: “Whose image and inscription are they?” 21They answered him: “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Mt 22: 15-21

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

Today’s Gospel invites us to reflect on the thorny problem, for the believer, of the relationship between Faith and the State.

The book of Proverbs exhorts: “Fear the Lord, my son, and the king; do not rebel against either” (Pr 24,21): according to rabbinical teaching, submission to the sovereign was due even when dealing with a foreign authority. Paul, as a good Rabbi, is the one who most supports, in the New Testament, this affirmation, which instead raises many questions for us: every political power is established and ordained by God, for the good of men (Rm 11,4). The authorities are “leitourgoì theou” (Rm 11,6), liturgists, employees of God, to be obeyed, honoured, and prayed for (1 Tim 2,2; cf. 1 Pt 2,17). But on the other hand Paul knows that he is at the service of a Crucifix, that is, of someone condemned to death by the State (Acts 3.13; 13.28), as were also the martyrs of the faith (Rom 8.36) ; in a very harsh passage, he rebukes Christians who allow themselves to be “judged by the unjust (editor’s note: the pagans) rather than by the saints…, people without authority in the Church” (1 Cor 6,4-7); Paul also knows from Jewish tradition (think of the story of the Maccabees: 1 Mac 2,19-22; 7,30…) that in certain cases obedience to the State must be refused; he himself states that authority “is at the service of God for your good” (Rm 13.4), and therefore if it is not working for the common advantage it can be contested; finally, the Apostle, linking submission to political authority to “reasons of conscience” (Rom 13.5; cf. 2.15), therefore admits a “conscientious objection”…

The Christian is not outside the world but is in the world (Jn 17.15), and therefore, today’s Gospel tells us (Mt 22.15-21) must “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Mt 22, 21). The disciple of Jesus does not distance himself from the reality of the “polis”, but like salt (Mt 5.13) and leaven (Mt 13.33), he must transform it from within: “The Church… walks together with all humanity and experiences the same earthly fate together with the world, and is like the ferment and almost the soul of human society… The Church believes that it can largely contribute to making the family of men and its history more human” (Gaudium et spes, n. .40).

The believer’s position is therefore essentially one of respect and collaboration with the authority of the State. But the Christian also knows that there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 8.6; 12.4), to whom “every knee must bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2.10): now “standing in the midst of the throne” stands “the slain Lamb” (Rev 5.6), “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev 17.14); to him was given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28.18). Therefore we must “give to God what is God’s” (Mt 22.21), and therefore “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5.29)

Therefore the believer does not hesitate to announce the judgment against the unjust political authority and its fall, as the Apocalypse does for the Rome of Nero and Domitian (Rev 17,1-19,10): “The citizen is obliged to conscience not to follow the prescriptions of civil authorities when such precepts are contrary to the demands of the moral order, the fundamental rights of people or the teachings of the Gospel. The refusal of obedience to civil authorities, when their requests conflict with those of upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between the service of God and the service of the political community (Mt 22,21; Acts 5,29)” ( Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2242; cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 74).

Pope Francis said: “On the one hand, by ordering us to return to the emperor what belongs to him, Jesus declares that paying the tax is not an act of idolatry, but an act due to earthly authority; on the other – and it is here that Jesus gives the “wing stroke” – recalling the primacy of God, he asks to give him what is due to him as Lord of man’s life and of history. The reference to the image of Caesar, engraved on the coin, says that it is right to feel fully entitled – with rights and duties – citizens of the State; but symbolically it makes us think of the other image that is imprinted in every man: the image of God. He is the Lord of everything, and we, who were created “in his image” belong first and foremost to Him. Jesus draws from the question posed to him by the Pharisees, a more radical and vital question for each of us, a question that we can ask ourselves: to whom do I belong? To family, to the city, to friends, to school, to work, to politics, to the state? Yes, certainly. But first of all – Jesus reminds us – you belong to God. This is the fundamental belonging. It is He who gave you everything you are and have. And therefore we can and must live our life, day by day, in the recognition of this fundamental belonging of ours and in the recognition of our heart towards our Father, who creates each of us individually, unrepeatable, but always according to the image of his beloved Son, Jesus. It is a stupendous mystery.”

“Dostoevsky said that man cannot live without kneeling before something: If man rejects God, he will kneel before an idol. Jesus’ concern in the Gospel is not whether taxes should be paid or not. The real problem is who we should kneel before. You can also pay tribute to Caesar, says Jesus, but only God should be given praise and glory. Taxes are paid to Caesar, but life is given to God. He does not kneel before the Caesars of the world or before any man, but only and always before God. Yet how many homages before the powerful of History. And the Church also has its beautiful flaws. Even today we are still paying homage to various politicians and powerful people, without taking into account the words of Jesus. In history starting with Constantine we have followed emperors and kings, even building the entire structure of the Church in their image. Today, finally with Pope Francis we are freeing ourselves from this absurd yoke” (F. Mastrolonardo).

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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