The simplicity of Jesus’s reply in today’s Gospel is typical of the entire Gospel story.
Humankind likes to complicate and embellish, sometimes in a malicious way. The Pharisees were actively trying to trick Jesus with their question. But his reply was enough, in it’s simplicity, to put an end to the pharisees’ deceit.
We can all be deceitful, not only towards others, but to ourselves also. We can over-complicate our lives with embellishments that are not important: those of wealth and power, material longing and passive selfishness. The Gospel should be a road back to our journey into God, a journey of simplicity and refinement in which our footprint on the world and on others is light. Strip away those embellishments, that deceit, and we have quite simply a wonderful (if sometimes challenging) opportunity to love and be loved. We may try to stop tripping up others, being deceitful and rude, unaccomodating and violent in our choice of words and actions. But first we should try to stop tripping ourselves up.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say,
‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied,
‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me?
Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’
They handed him a denarius and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’
‘Caesar’s’ they replied.
He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.