Virtue of Patriotism
by Father Joseph Pellegrino
Well, they really thought they had Him this time. The Intelligentsia of First Century Judaism
really had Jesus in a No-Win Situation. They were so proud of themselves. They were so smart.
He was Dead-in-the-Water no matter what He said. They started by
laying it on thick, "We know You are an Honest Man, and that You teach according to the Truth without regard to
anyoneís opinion or status", now here comes the 'Zinger', "Is it Lawful to pay the Census Tax to
Caesar or not?".
You know they smirked, just like the Wise Brat in Eighth Grade who figures he finally can demonstrate to the class how he is so much
smarter than the Teacher. The question itself demonstrated their intelligence, or so they thought. What could
Jesus say? If He said that it is not Lawful to pay the Tax, then
He would instantly be arrested as a Rebel and Zealot, an Enemy of Rome, part of the Jewish Resistance Movement. If
He said that it was Lawful to pay the Tax, He would be
exposed as a Supporter of Pagans, not a true Jew but a Collaborator with Rome.
They really had Him this time.
Or so they thought. In one succinct phrase, Jesus demonstrated how a person should choose in matters
of Religion and State: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesarís and unto God what is Godís". And they
went away Marveling, knowing that they had been Outwitted, no, more than that, knowing that they had underestimated
Patriotism is a Virtue
"Render to Caesar what is Caesarís and to God what is Godís". Patriotism
is a Virtue. A good Christian should be a good American. A good Christian should be willing to
stand up for and even Fight for the Values that make America great: Freedom, Liberty, the Rights of People,
particularly the most Needy of our Society, the Poor,
Recently a gentleman told me that he participated in the Immorality of the Country by closing an
eye to the Actions of the last Presidential Administration. It occurred to me that that is exactly what makes America great. Americans feel a
Deep and Personal Responsibility for the Actions of their Government.
There is a story about a Minister who in the early part of the Last Century was asked to give the
Memorial Day address at the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA. Like most of the speakers in previous years, he felt a need to conclude
his talk by reciting Lincolnís famous address. The Minister thought that the speech had gone well, but afterwards an old man came
forward and said to him, "Son, youíve made an Awful Mess of Lincolnís speech". Taken aback the
Minister said, "How so, I didnít miss a word. Look, here are my notes". "Oh,
I donít need your notes", said the man, "I know it by heart. You see I heard it the first time
around". The Minister then realized that this man had been present when Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. So the
Minister asked, "How did my recitation differ from that of the Great President?" The old man put it
this way, "Abe put his hands out over the people like a Benediction and said, 'That the government of the People,
by the People and for the People, should not perish from the Earth'. You got the words right, "the old man said,
" but you got the Emphasis wrong and you missed the message. You emphasized Government. Lincoln talked about
When Government seeks to provide for the Just Welfare of its Citizens, it is doing the
Work of God. Render to Caesar what is Caesarís.
Jesusí response tells us that oneís Citizenship does not have to be at odds with oneís
Faith. As Patriotic Americans, we need to Participate in the Affairs of our Government
Responsibly and Intelligently, so that our Public Policies may reflect the Wisdom and
Justice of God.
Patriotism as a Virtue means keeping the Proper Order of Christian
Priorities. The old expression "My country Right or Wrong, but my country", is not valid for
the Christian when that means participating in Immoral Acts. For example, the Christian would be
Wrong to Support and Fight for Abortion simply because
Abortion is a Law of our Country. The Christian would also be Wrong
if he or she does not Fight for Just and
We have the Right and the Responsibility to apply a Moral Litmus Test to the dictates of our Nation. The People of Germany did not do
this in their own Country during the Last Century and closed-an-eye to Nazi
anti-Semitism. They now Suffer the Guilt imposed by their
lack-of-action. So also, Americans were either not knowledgeable or unwilling to learn what exactly the Country was doing to Native
Americans and Africans during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century
and now Suffers the Guilt imposed by lack-of-action.
What is it that we must Render unto God? God deserves
Reverence and Worship. Godís
Presence in others deserves Care and Respect. Next Sundayís
Gospel will tell us that we need to Love God with our whole Hearts
and Minds and Souls and Love
our Neighbor as ourselves.
Jesusí response to the Pharisees confronts them and us with the demand to Act out of our Deepest
Convictions and take Responsibility for those Actions whether we are Leaders or Followers, whether we identify ourselves at a particular
moment as Christians or as Citizens.
Todayís Gospel reminds us to Fight not just for America, but for the best America
possible. Jesus asks us to look beyond Simplistic Politics and Black and White Legalism and realize
that we are called to embrace the Values of the Gospel: Justice, Mercy,
Compassion and Reconciliation.
. . . . . . No Gain
. . . . . No Glory
. . . . No Crown
The Pharisees had it all Wrong. There is no Dilemma
between the Choice of Caesar or God. At least, there is no Dilemma
when we are determined to Instill, Foster and Support Morality in the Actions of our Government.
Since 9-11 we have often sung "God bless America". We must mean
what we sing and ask God to direct our Nationís Actions so it may serve His