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In today’s gospel, the enemies of Jesus try to trap him with their question about paying taxes to Caesar. Taxes are always controversial, and they were more so in Jesus’ time. Refusing to pay them might make you a hero in people’s eyes, but your moment of glory would soon bring you the sentence of death.
Jesus’ answer squarely acknowledges the rights of a government to be supported by their people. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” He seems to imply there are bigger things than paying taxes. Stay where you are, he says, you can be a revolutionary there.
Can we be revolutionaries where we are? In unfavorable times, in times as they are? And is that where Jesus asks us to follow him, in our lives as they are?
The gospels say Jesus called some like Peter, James and John to leave their lives as they were and follow him, but most of those he called remained where they were as his followers.
Think of one of the first he called, Peter’s mother in law. When he raised her from fever she got up to wait on them. She was back at her life as it was.
He told many whom he cured to go home to their lives as before. When Jesus left Jericho for Jerusalem he left behind Zachaeus, the chief tax collector, evidently still the chief tax collector but now a changed man.
And what about Mary his mother? She did not seem to follow him on his missionary journeys but remained in Nazareth until the days when her son went to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Nazareth at that time must have been a hard place to be.
Perhaps the hardest places to follow Jesus and revolutionize are where we are.