Virtue of Patriotism

Tribute Money - by STROZZI, Bernardo - from Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest


Matthew 22:15-22

22:15 Then the Pharisees going, consulted among themselves how to ensnare Him in His speech.

22:16 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.

22:17 Tell us therefore what dost Thou think, is it Lawful to give Tribute to Caesar, or not?

22:18 But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt Me, ye hypocrites.

22:19 Shew Me the coin of the Tribute. And they offered Him a penny.

22:20 And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this?

22:21 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.

22:22 And hearing this they wondered, and leaving Him, went their ways.


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 Jesusí Wisdom.


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, Infirm, Disadvantaged.

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 People".

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 Moral Laws.

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 Pain . . . . . . No Gain
Guts . . . . . No Glory
Cross . . . . No

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 Kingdom.