Epistle: Philippians 1: 6-11
6 Being confident of this very thing, that He, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus.
7 As it is meet for me to think this for you all, for that I have you in my heart; and that in my bands, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of my joy.
Commentary on Verse 7 In the defense, & c. being then a prisoner, waiting for his trial; and the defense he could make for himself and the sentence of the judge. (Wi.)
8 For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
9 And this I pray, that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge, and in all understanding:
Commentary on Verse 9 That your charity, & c. It is worthy of remark, that Saint Paul does not beg that the Philippians may enjoy temporal blessings, but that they may be rewarded with an increase of spiritual favors; (Cal.) and as he remarks in the succeeding verses, that they may be filled with the fruits of justice.
10 That you may approve the better things, that you may be sincere and without offence unto the day of Christ,
11 Filled with the fruit of justice, through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Gospel: St. Matthew 22: 15-21
15 At that time, the Pharisees went and consulted among themselves how to ensnare Jesus in His speech.
Commentary on Verse 15 This is the third conference which Jesus Christ had with the Jews. It relates to the civil conduct of mankind, as directed and influenced by religion.
16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that Thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man: for Thou dost not regard the person of men.
Commentary on Verse 16 The Herodians. That is, some that belonged to Herod, and that joined with him in standing up for the necessity of paying tribute to Caesar; that is, to the Roman emperor. Some are of opinion that that there was a sect among the Jews called Herodians, from their maintaining that Herod was the Messias. (Ch.) – These soldiers had come to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, which was to take place in a very few days. The Pharisees sent their disciples with these soldiers, that immediately as the former ensnared Him in His discourse, the latter might apprehend Him. It is worthy of remark, that these blood-thirsty miscreants sought to ensnare Him in His words, not able to discover a fault in any action of His whole life. (Nic. de Lyra. and Saint Chrysostom) – Master, we know. The Pharisees had instructed their disciples and the Herodians to speak in this seemingly friendly manner to our Saviour, that they might put Him off His guard, and thereby ensnare Him; thinking that Jesus, like other men, could be led away by flattery. Thus do all hypocrites act. They first praise those they want to destroy; and thus by their deceitful words, lead them aside from the true path, into all kinds of evils and miseries. (Ita Saint Chrysostom, Tostatus, & c.)
17 Tell us therefore what dost Thou think, is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
Commentary on Verse 17 Is it lawful, reasonable and just, to give tribute to Caesar? It was at that time a question much agitated among the Jews, whether they, being the peculiar people of God, ought to be subject and pay taxes to Caesar, or to any prince whatsoever, or be exempt from them. (Wi.) – Judas Galilaeus, about the time of Christ’s birth, stirred up the people to a revolt, which though suppressed by violent measures, and himself slain by the Romans, yet the doctrine he broached did not expire with him. Some even among the Pharisees were of opinion, that it was unlawful for the people of God to serve strangers and idolater, as we learn from Josephus. The question, therefore, proposed to our Saviur was insidious in the extreme, and not easy to be answered, without incurring the displeasure of one or other of the parties. For, if He answered that it was lawful, He would expose Himself to the hatred of the Jews, who were aggrieved with what generally thought an unjust extortion, and a mark of servitude injurious to God; if He denied the legality of this hated capitation-tax, He would incur the displeasure of the Herodians, and be denounced to Caesar. This latter appears to have been their wish; as, in that case, it would have been very easy to persuade Pilate, that Christ and His disciples coming from Galilee, were favourers of that sect, who, from the name of their founder, Judas Galilaeus, were called Galilaeans; and some of whom, as we read in Saint Luke (13: 1,) Pilate put to death, whose blood he mingled with their sacrifices. Indeed so determined were the enemies of Christ to injure Him with Pilate on this subject, that notwithstanding His answer was plainly in favour of the tribute, yet they blushed not a few days after to accuse Him to Pilate of teaching it to be unlawful to pay tribute; we have found Him, say they, forbidding tribute to be paid to Caesar. (T. and Dion. Carth.)
18 But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt Me, ye hypocrites?
Commentary on Verse 18 Ye hypocrites? Our divine Savior knowing their malice, and that it was their wish in proposing this question, to render Him odious to the people, or a suspicious character to the prince, answers them in these severe words. … Another motive was, to let them see that the secrets of their inmost hearts were open to Him, and thus induce them to be converted from their wickedness; for, certainly, if they perceived that He could read their hearts, they must thence conclude that He was something more than human. This severe reprehension, according to Saint Chrysostom, shews, that it is better for man that God should chastise him here in this life, than spare him here to chastise him hereafter. (Tostatus)
19 Shew Me the coin of the tribute. And they offered Him a penny.
20 And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this?
21 They say to Him: Caesar's. Then He saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God's.
Commentary on Verse 21 Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. He neither directly decided the question, nor offended the Herodians. They admired His wisdom, were quite disappointed, and retired with confusion. (Wi.) – The reasoning of Christ appears to be this: As you are the subjects of Caesar, which you plainly acknowledge by admitting his coin, upon which he inscribes himself lord of Asia, Syria, and Judaea, & c. it is but just you pay him the tribute due from subjects to their sovereign; nor have you any reason to object on the plea of religion, since he demands of you for the exigencies of the public service only temporal things, and such as are in some respects already his own, by being stamped with his own image and superscription. But spiritual things, which belong to God alone, as your souls, stamped with His image, divine worship, religious homage, & c. God, not Caesar, demands of you. “Give therefore to Caesar what belongeth to Caesar, and to God what belongeth to God.” (T.) – What our Savior here commands us to give to God, is nothing else but our heart and affections. Here our divine Lord likewise shews us, how we are to steer the middle course between the two extremes, into which some persons fall. Some say that all must be given to God, and nothing to Caesar, i.e. all our time must be given to the care of our soul, and none to the care of the body; but Christ teaches that some must be given to the one, and part to the other. (Origen) – Although Christ clearly establishes here the strict obligation of paying to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, yet He is afterwards accused, as we have mentioned above, (see note on verse 17) as if He forbade tribute to be paid to Caesar. In like manner, in spite of the most explicit declarations of the Catholic Church, respecting her loyalty and subjection to temporal powers, her enemies fail not to calumniate her doctrine as inimical to the state, and subversive of due subordination. But let our opponents attend to the following authority and public declaration of Pope Clement XIV addressed to all Catholic bishops in the Christian world. “Be careful,” says he, “that those whose instruction in the law of the gospel is committed to your charge, be made sensible from their very infancy sake.” - But princes should not exact, and subjects should not affect to give them ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Saint Athanasius quotes the following strong words from an epistle of the famous confessor Hosius, to Constantius, the Arian emperor: “Cease, I beseech thee, and remember that thou art mortal. Fear the day of judgment, and meddle not with ecclesiastical matters; neither do thou command us in this kind, but rather learn them of us. To thee God hath committed the empire; to us He hath committed what belongs to the Church. And as he who, with a malicious eye, hath designs upon thine empire, opposeth the ordinance of God; so do thou also beware lest, by an improper interference in ecclesiastical matters, thou be made guilty of a great crime. For it is written, Give to Caesar, & c. Therefore, neither is it lawful for us on earth to hold the empire, neither has thou, O emperor, power over incense and sacred things.” (Saint Athansius, ep. ad solit. vitam agentes.) – And Saint Ambrose to Valentinian, the emperor, (who by the ill counsel of his mother Justina, an Arian, required of Saint Ambrose to have one church in Milan made over the Arian heretics) saith: “We pay that which is Caesar’s to Caesar, and that which is God’s to God. Tribute is Caesar’s; it is not denied. The Church is God’s; it cannot verily be yielded to Caesar; because the temple of God cannot be Caesar’s right. Be it said, as all must allow to the honor of the emperor, for what is more honourable than that the emperor be said to be the son of the Church? A good emperor is within the Church, but not above the Church.” (Saint Ambrose l. v. epist. Orat. De Basil, trad.)