Tuesday - Ordinary Time
1) Opening prayer
your love never fails.
Hear our call.
Keep us from danger
and provide for all our needs.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 12,13-17
priests, the scribes and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some
Herodians to catch him out in what he said. These came and said to him,
'Master, we know that you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone,
because human rank means nothing to you, and that you teach the way of God in
all honesty. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or
not?' Recognising their hypocrisy he said to them, 'Why are you putting me to
the test? Hand me a denarius and let me see it.'
They handed him
one and he said to them, 'Whose portrait is this? Whose title?' They said to
him, 'Caesar's.' Jesus said to them, 'Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar -- and
God what belongs to God.' And they were amazed at him.
• In today’s Gospel, the confrontation
between Jesus and the authority continues. The priests and the Scribes had been
criticized and denounced by Jesus in the parable of the vineyard (Mk 12, 1-12).
Now, they themselves ask the Pharisees and the Herodians to set up a trap
against Jesus to be able to condemn him. They ask questions to Jesus concerning
the taxes to be paid to the Romans. This was a controversial theme which
divided public opinion. The enemies of Jesus want, at all costs, to accuse him
and diminish the influence that he had on the people. Groups, which before were
enemies between them, now get together to fight against Jesus. This also
happens today. Many times, persons or groups, enemies among themselves, get
together to defend their privileges against those who inconvenience them with
the announcement of truth and of justice.
• Mark 12,13-14: The question of
the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Pharisees and the Herodians were the local
leaders in the villages of Galilee. It was a long time since they had
decided to kill Jesus (Mk 3, 6). Now, because of the order of the priests and
of the elders, they want to know if Jesus is in favour or against the payment
of taxes to the Romans, to Caesar. An underhanded or sly question, full of
malice! Under the appearance of fidelity to the Law of God, they look for
reasons in order to be able to accuse him. If Jesus says “You should pay!”, they
could accuse him of being a friend of the Romans. If he would say: “No, you
do not have to pay!”, they could accuse him to the authority of the Romans
that he was subversive. This seemed to be a dead alley!
• Mark 12, 15-17: Jesus’ answer. Jesus
perceives their hypocrisy. In his response he does not lose time in useless
discussion, and goes straight to the centre of the question. Instead of
responding and of discussing the affair of the tribute to Caesar, he asks to be
shown a coin and he asks: “Whose portrait and inscription is this?” They
answered: “Caesar’s!” The answer of Jesus: “Then pay Caesar what belongs to
Caesar and to God what belongs to God”. In practice, they already
recognized the authority of Caesar. They were already giving to Caesar what
belonged to Caesar, because they used his currency, his money to buy and to
sell and even to pay the taxes of the Temple! That which interested Jesus was
that they “gave to God what belongs to God!, that is, that they
restituite the people to God, from their deviation, because with their teaching
they blocked the entrance into the Kingdom (Mk 23,13). Others explained this
phrase of Jesus in another way: “Give to God what belongs to God!”, that is,
practice justice and honesty as the Law of God demands, because your hypocrisy
denies to God what is due to him. The disciples have to be aware!
• Taxes, tributes, taxes and denarii. “In Jesus’ time, the people of Palestine paid
many taxes, tributes and the tenth part of their income, both to the Romans as
well as to the Temple. The Roman Empire had invades Palestine in the year
63 A.D. and they imposed many taxes and tributes. According to the estimates
made, half or even more of the family salaries were used to pay the tributes,
taxes and the tenth part of their income. The taxes which the Romans demanded
were of two types: direct and indirect.
a) The Direct tax was on property
and on persons. The tax on property (tributum soli): the fiscal officers
of the government verified how large the property was, the production and the
number of slaves and they fixed the amount to be paid. Periodically, there was
a verification through the census. The tax on persons (tributum
capitis): was for the poor class who owned no land. This included both men
and women, between 12 and 65 years of age. It was a tax on the force of work;
20% of the income of every person was used to pay taxes.
b) The Indirect tax was placed on
transactions of different types: a Crown of gold: Originally, it was a
question of a gift to the Emperor, but then it became an obligatory tax. This
was paid on special occasions, for example: the feast and the visits of the
Emperor. The tax on salt: The salt was the monopoly of the Emperor. It
was necessary to pay the tribute on the salt for commercial use. For example,
the salt used by fishermen to dry up the fish and to sell it. From this comes
the word “salary”. A tax on buying and selling: for every commercial use 1%
was paid. This money was paid to the fiscal officers during the holidays. When
a slave was bought they demanded 4%. In every registered commercial contract,
they demanded 2%. The tax for exercising a profession: There was need
for everyone to have a license for everything. For example, a cobbler in the
city of Palmira paid one denarius a month. A denarius was equivalent to the
salary of one day. And even the prostitutes had to pay. A tax for the use of
public utilities: Emperor Vespasiano introduced the tax in order to be able
to use the public toilets in Rome. He would say: “Money does not stink!”
c) Other taxes and obligations: toll or
customs; forced work; Special expenses for the army (to give hospitality to the
soldiers; to pay for the food of the troops); Taxes for the Temple and the
4) Personal questions
• Do you know some case of groups or of persons who were
enemies between themselves, but who were then united to follow an honest person
who bothered or inconvenienced and denounced them? Has this happened some times
• What is the sense of this phrase today:
“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”?
5) Concluding Prayer
fill us with your faithful love,
we shall sing
and be happy all our days;
Show your servants the deeds you do,
let their children enjoy your splendour! (Ps 90:14,16)