One nameless character that appears frequently in the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures is the so-called “just man.” Today’s readings give us the opportunity to reflect on our call to live out the cardinal virtue of justice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines justice as “the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor.
The Gospel concerns itself with that which is due to God. This lesson comes to us through the oft maligned notion of taxation. Jesus skillfully eludes the trap set for him by the Pharisees and Herodians by turning the issue back upon them. When they are able to produce a coin with the image of Caesar on it, Jesus turns the question into a lesson on justice as well as obedience. Give to Caesar what is justly Caesar’s, but remember also that possessing a coin with this graven image on it is also a sin against the first commandment. Because Caesar claims to be a god and the inscription on the coin proclaims this falsehood, the Pharisees are humiliated once again in their attempts to dishonor the just man, Jesus.
The reading from the Book of Tobit also teaches us about justice but from a negative point of view as Tobit fails to trust his wife and take her word that the goat she received was just recompense for her labor. We are reminded that we owe one another trust, respect, kindness, patience, help, honesty, and a listening ear.
God, who is infinitely merciful, is due our praise and worship in return. It is often said that God’s just is mercy. Today we give thanks to God for that gift by sharing it with one another.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator