WE can’t escape this world. We can’t isolate or numb ourselves from all its influences and its happenings. Be it a political issue, a natural disaster, or a threat of nuclear war, our personal lives–which includes our spirituality, faith, or religious beliefs–interface and intertwine with the affairs of this world.
This fact is much more evident now in an era of social media and digital world. We’re more connected with the rest of the inhabitants of this planet. The news comes to us rapidly through Facebook and Twitter. We can’t help become affected by anything that we see on our laptop or cellphones. For example, the news about the Las Vegas massacre became immediately viral to the rest of the world a few minutes after the tragic event.
As our personal lives interface with any world or local event, we find ourselves constantly challenged to look at our Christian faith and beliefs. What and how is this occurrence calling us to do? How is it helping us discern the right principle or position that is faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ or the values of the Kingdom of God?
The Gospel this Sunday (Matthew 22:15-21) recalls to us the famous words, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” What Jesus means here is to be responsible citizens of this world according to the values and precepts he taught and preached. And so, if he instructed to us to respect the life of every human being, then that’s what each of us, including government leaders, should do. If he taught us to be merciful, then that’s what every bill, humanitarian effort, and political reform should manifest and promote, especially in regards to the weak and needy members of our society.
It’s clear that our problem in Christianity is the lack of congruity between our faith and actions. Often, we don’t practice what we believe. We live a split-level Christianity. We’re good Christians during a one-hour of worship, but we’re different people the rest of the time. Often, we give our allegiance to the moral principles of a political leader than to those that the Church teaches us.
Can God and Caesar coexist? For sure they can, as long as Caesar operates under the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ. As Fr. John Foley S.J. says, “God put us in this world to sanctify it, to befriend the things of Caesar.”
As Christians, our fundamental principle is that we’re all created in the image of God. Our task is to protect this image—our own and those of our brothers and sisters. Whether we’re involved in Church, government or secular affairs, it is our responsibility not to distort this image of God stamped in every soul of all human beings.
May all actions give God glory and honor! May we always remember the famous line from St. Irenaeus: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.