As Christians, we live between two realms – the Divine one, the one of our love and relationship with God, and earthly political powers. It often causes particular tensions within us internally and externally through the fact that we are members of society. More and more often, we become subject to an abuse of religious freedom by earthly rulers. A good example of such a violation is that already in some of the states in Australia the law of imposing criminal penalties on priests who do not break the seal of confession in particular situations has been established. Thankfully, the priests know they should not “fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).
How should one, therefore, find a proper balance to rightly “give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God?” Looking at signs of time is not the easiest of the tasks, but such discernment is needed. A struggle to be able to follow our Christian beliefs is required. Jesus does not tell us today to separate ourselves from the secular world, from the difficulty of living actively in a society. Palestinian political reality in Christ’s times was extremely complicated. Citizens living under Roman occupation could feel threatened. Jesus does not call to create a military revolution against the occupier. Rather, he invites them, and us too, to find a personal way to holiness within the reality everyone is put into. In the first reading, Cyrus of Persia, an utterly foreign ruler from the Jewish perspective, is praised. God used him to liberate the Israelites, who had to spend some time in exile due to their disobedience to God’s command and covenant.
God offers people a lot of freedom, even to the point of doing harm to each other. God also keeps guard and provides help at appropriate times. We should not be disengaged or do not assert our rights in the secular world. However, within that struggle, we must discern how to do it and always put God first so He may help us be faithful and follow the proper hierarchy of importance. Both faith and politics should be significant in our lives: God because He is the source of goodness, and politics because that is a means for us to bring God’s goodness into the social reality.
Łukasz Gołąb – Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Sydney, Australia.
Fot. Bryan Minear