Does It Matter What You Believe?

Classic Sunday Sermon: Does It Matter What You Believe?
Posted on 10/22/2023
Bishop Barron

Friends, a great theme of the Bible is that of God’s chosen people. At the same time, we also see that God’s salvific plan has to do with all of humanity—and indeed with all of creation. God chooses Israel—and the New Israel, the Church—precisely for the sake of the whole world. Remembering this helps us keep the delicate balance between bland spiritual relativism and a dangerous religious tribalism.

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Gospel Reflection

MATTHEW 22:15–21

Friends, in today’s Gospel, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus. They ask, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Church-state questions are nothing new—and they continue to be just as divisive.

In the matter of religion and politics, the same principle of Jesus’ wonderful one-liner applies: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Politics is not in a realm separate from the religious; rather, its deepest ground is spiritual. 

So does this mean that religion just swallows everything up? Of course not. Here we can profitably return to Jesus’ dictum. One of the implications of the doctrine of creation is that created things have their own integrity. They are not parts of God, appendages of God’s being. Sports, culture, art, politics, science, etc. have their own particular forms of flourishing.

And it’s no business of mine to come crashing into an artist’s studio and telling him how to paint, or to enter an operating room and tell a doctor how to perform heart surgery. This is the valid independence of created things and secular culture vis-à-vis religion. But remember that all things, ultimately, belong to God—including Caesar!