29th Sunday of the Year (A) 2020
I think many admire the clever reply of Jesus to the pharisees and Herodians. They thought they had trapped him. But Jesus evades their trap; “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.” But Jesus reply isn’t just clever, it’s also profoundly important. It is telling us that we have two authorities: the secular, in our case our government, and God. But by far the greater authority is God’s. Today we don’t have the Emperor Caesar, instead we have Boris Johnson! And so we must give back to Boris what belongs to Boris. In other words, we must obey our civil authorities. This is particularly important right now as the government is trying to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
I was at Marylebone railway station the other day and a man, seeing my roman collar, asked me if God was responsible for this pandemic. I told him that you can’t blame God for something that humans have somehow created. It is easy to get down and even depressed by what is happening. We cannot meet up anymore, at least for the foreseeable future. We can’t even visit people in hospital, and many are dying on their own. We can’t travel to many places without having to go into quarantine. Young couples have had to postpone their weddings. Funerals have restricted numbers. Some are fearful that this will never end. People may be wondering: where is God in all this?
Well God is right here. He is with us in our darkest moments. We should never forget Him. He is all-powerful and all-wise. Turn to him in prayer, and ask Him to give you what you need to get through this crisis. This is what He wants us to do. This is what we should do. What God does is to give us hope; that most wonderful of virtues. When we have hope we can endure, it gives us strength and motivation to keep going. Hope is telling us that all will be well, that this pandemic will not last forever, that some kind of normality will return.
So we have our civil authority, to whom we owe allegiance. Then we have our spiritual authority, God, to whom we owe much more. He is looking after us and caring for us in a way that the civil authority cannot. You don’t see Him but His presence is real. He gives us that precious gift of hope that no civil authority can give; and with that we can persevere, in the sure knowledge that all will be well. You have God’s word for it.