November 3, 2017
In the Gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees ask Jesus ifit is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar; yet, the Pharisees are not
actually interested in His answer. Rather, their objective is to trap Jesus through
their inquiry. They know a simple yes or no answer would violate either Roman
or Jewish law and attempt to use this knowledge to their advantage.
As voters in many states prepare to return to the
polls, we're reminded of last year's presidential race, which had a
particularly appalling tone and was arguably one of the more divisive campaign
seasons. It's no secret that the political climate has yet to improve, and many
would argue that the division has even reached new heights.
Whether it be through our social media feeds, evening
television news or talk radio pundits, we are all witnesses to a political and
cultural climate that similarly asks questions, not to work towards mutual
understanding, but to entrap and even destroy an individual or group. Political
pursuits seem to be less about achieving the common good and more about winning
an argument. We need only to read the comments section of any online posting to
see that dialogue and debate has devolved to little more than insults,
accusations, and dismissal.
As a nation, we are certainly facing many critical issues
that have the potential to dramatically change our society, especially regarding
the protection and defense of human life, conscience rights, and religious
liberty. While we must always stand firm in our opposition to threats against these
rights, we must never forget the innate dignity of those individuals who oppose
or disagree with us. When we enter such discussions and debates, as our faith
calls us to do, we must set the example of how to challenge positions and arguments
while always maintaining the dignity of the other.
If we "win" an argument at the expense of another's
dignity, we've already lost.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI highlights, "Being
Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the
encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a
decisive direction" (Deus caritas est,
1). Because we have encountered Jesus,
we know who we are and where we are going. We know we are called to share the
gift we have received and—as Jesus teaches us—to love and to pray for our enemies.
When the Pharisees ask Jesus about the census tax he responds,
"Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." His
answer does not simply avoid their trap, but as my pastor recently noted, serves
as an invitation to reflection. Jesus provides a response that the Pharisees may
ponder within their hearts, as can we.
As Christians, our ultimate mission is the salvation
of souls, and the soul of the person who opposes us is as precious as that of
the child in the womb. Therefore, may the way we speak to and about those who oppose
our efforts be to them an invitation to reflection. By loving and respectful
communication, may others come to encounter He who is the Truth.
Chelsy Gomez is a Program Associate for the Secretariat of Pro-Life
Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the
bishops' pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.