22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.
With these words, Our Blessed Lord affirms both the just autonomy of the civil order and its total dependance on God. Indeed, all things are God’s, including Caesar. Caesar’s duty is to provide for the temporal good of citizens, but more importantly to make it possible for them to achieve their true good, which is their eternal salvation. Salvation requires the true religion, the true faith. “He who believes and is baptised shall be saved. He who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mk 16:16) Therefore Caesar’s duty is to promote and protect the only true religion and to ensure that false religions are not in a position to corrupt the lives and morals of citizens. Such is the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.
We might ask why this is. Why does the State have the duty to protect the true religion from the false? Or rather, – since the answer to that question has already been given – why is this in the very interest of the State? Quite simply because wherever there is a false religion, there is the worship of idols, and wherever there is the worship of idols, there is the worship of self, and wherever there is the worship of self, there is ultimately murder and anarchy: idols take their origin precisely in the self-centredness of fallen man who seeks to canonise his tendencies and his vices, as can be seen so well in the gods of pagan Greece and Rome, or worse, in the blood-thirsty gods of certain tribes who demanded human sacrifices. They only served to glorify human vices. And so it is with all idols, and that is why there can never be any reconciliation or compromise between God and false gods, as St Paul makes it clear to the Corinthians: Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what participation hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God: as God saith: I will dwell in them and walk among them. And I will be their God: and they shall be my people. Wherefore: Go out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: And I will receive you. And will be a Father to you: and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Co 6:14-18).
As we look at the present state of the Church and the world, and compare it with what it should be, we are appalled. We might even be inclined to despair. How can we possibly ever turn the tide? First of all, we need to repent and come before the Lord. From the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice. If Thou shalt observe iniquities, O Lord, Lord, who shall endure it? for with Thee is propitiation, O God of Israel. (Ps 129: 1-2). If we do turn to Our Lord with humble and contrite hearts, He will not refuse our prayer. We who fear Him let us hope in Him, for He is our helper and protector, and He will perfect us unto the day of Christ Jesus, that is to say, the day on which He will come to judge the living and the dead.
In light of this limpid teaching, the importance of monasteries becomes all too evident. A monastery is a place where the true God, who became incarnate in Jesus Christ, is fully acknowledged as God, where everything is worship of God, where there is not a detail of the life that is not meant to be like the sanctuary lamp that consumes itself to the glory of the true God.
A monastery is God’s garden of choice, His own vineyard, in which He can come and take rest, in which He can find solace amidst a world that turns increasingly against Him or is at least indifferent to Him – which, in the end, is all the same, for as Our Blessed Lord says: “He who is not with Me is against me” (Mt 12:30).
It is the place where brothers discover how sweet and pleasing it is to dwell together in unity, where the work begun in each of us is continued each day, until it becomes perfect and reaches its fulfilment.
It is finally a place where many souls can come to learn about God, to experience first hand how He is to be honoured and worshipped, and consequently, how to contribute to the true and authentic good of the world by promoting the true faith. “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).