29th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A
Today's readings are all about the good relationship that should exist between people of faith and civil governments. A good example of this is the attitude of the Bible towards a pagan king from Iran.
The Jews had been conquered by an invader from Iraq in the beginning of the 6th century B.C. The prophets told them to expect a savior who would bring them freedom. In 549 Cyrus II (known as the Great) king of Iran, conquered Iraq. He was a shrewd politician and freed all the former slaves. He even paid them to rebuild their cities and temples. Though the Jews were only part of this group, they interpreted as a fulfillment of the prophecy. They hailed Cyrus as a messiah and gave obedience to his government.
A few centuries before the birth of Jesus, Israel had been conquered by Syria. It appealed to Rome for help. The Romans readily agreed and then took over completely. They heavily taxed the Jews, forcing them to pay in Roman currency. Their religion forbade creating images of animals or humans, so this currency--the Denarius--was hated.
This was a political hot potato in the time of Jesus. Many condemned taxation, but feared to debate it openly. Some religious leaders try to trap Jesus into accepting one side or the other. He neatly avoids breaking the laws: civil and religious. At the same time he expresses the need to cooperate with civil authority.
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