29th Sunday of the Year (A) 2017

After listening to the parable about the invitees refusing to come to the wedding feast, which we read last weekend, the chief priests, Scribes and Pharisees were livid because it meant that they had rejected God.
So they upped the ante.
The question about paying tax to Caesar was a very political and sensitive one. To say no was treason as far as the Romans, the Herodians and all civil servants were concerned and would result in immediate arrest and execution. To say yes was totally unacceptable and unpatriotic to the Jewish people who regarded the Roman tax as unjust and as a symbol of their oppression by foreigners.
Cannily enough the Pharisees did not ask the question themselves as this might put them under suspicion by the Romans, so they sent some of their disciples (the less bright ones) to ask the question publicly. In today’s political jargon they wanted ‘plausible deniability.’
They seemingly had Jesus between a rock and a hard place.
The denarius, was a roman coin used to pay the tax and was regarded as the symbol of the oppression of the Jewish people. It was hated and reviled. It also figured the head of the Roman Emperor and alluded to him as divine.
So Jesus’ reply – ‘repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God’ – neatly outflanked the problem.
It indicated that (as every Jew believed) everything belongs to God and should be given to God, while the only thing which belonged to Caesar was this hated coin with his head and name on it – the symbol of oppression – which every Jew would gladly give back to Caesar, together with his reign of oppression.
We should take note of the total opposition of Jesus of Nazareth to oppression of any kind.
There are the obvious cases of the oppression of one nation by another or of one ethnic group by another. There are also the less obvious cases of the oppression involved in human trafficking and exploitation of the weak.
Nearer to home there is the oppression exercised in the workplace such as bullying and the belittling of others and of their efforts. Lastly there is the oppression exercised in the home, in the family.
If I am honest with myself I will easily distinguish between necessary discipline in the family and needless or deliberate oppression and bullying.
One is good and necessary for a happy family environment while the other is hurtful and brings unhappiness and devision.
We have all experienced enjoying a happy gathering of family or friends. Then another person joins the group. Suddenly the whole atmosphere changes. Conversation peters out, every word is carefully chosen before being spoken. Everyone is ‘tiptoeing on eggshells.’ The atmosphere becomes oppressive.
Also vice versa. A very stilted and oppressive meal or party changes immediately when one or two persons leave. The whole atmosphere becomes convivial and free flowing.
This is something we can all examine our consciences about. I can oppress another deliberately or I may also act oppressively without being fully aware of it.
Sitting down occasionally, and prayerfully and honestly examining my day, both at work and in my family, and the relationship I have with each person therein may reveal some unpleasant facts about me which need attention. This exercise can be far better for my spiritual welfare and my relationship with others and with my God, than just an enumeration of ‘sins’ committed.