Homily - Church and State, Thomas More
I have a dollar coin in my hand. On one side is an image of Queen Elizabeth, on the other side is a cluster of bounding kangaroos. In the Gospel today, the Pharisees, wanting to trap Jesus, handing Him a coin, asked “Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
That was a loaded question. Jesus saw through their ploy – His response to their loaded question was masterful.
Jesus is very simply stating a principle for us. We have to responsibilities – to our country and its government and to God. We are citizens of Australia - and so we recognise our civic obligations. This Gospel is very timely for us as we are in the process of voting for our local Council.
While we recognise our civic obligations, we remember that our final loyalty is to God. Living as Christians there are times when we must stand up for some value that some challenge – eg the right to life - at the beginning and/or the end of life.
St. Thomas More is a hero in this regard. He was the Lord Chancellor in England and he was confronted with a moral dilemma. Would he take the oath recognising Henry VIII as the supreme head of the Church in England and approve his marriage to Anne Boleyn or would he give priority to the Pope’s refusal to grant an annulment. Thomas More was prepared to go to the gallows saying: “I am the King’s good servant but God’s first”.