18Oct 18 October, 2020.  29th Sunday, Year A

18 October, 2020.  29th Sunday, Year A

1st Reading: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6

Providence appointed king Cyrus to liberate Israel from the exile in Babylon

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him, and the gates shall not be closed:

“For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west,
that there is no one besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

Responsorial: Psalm 95:1, 3-5, 7-10

R./: Give the Lord glory and honour

O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
Tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples. (R./)

The Lord is great and worthy of praise,
to be feared above all gods;
the gods of the heathens are naught.
It was the Lord who made the heavens. (R./)

Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
give the Lord glory and power,
give the Lord the glory of his name.
Bring an offering and enter his courts. (R./)

Worship the Lord in his temple,
O earth, tremble before him.
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king,’
He will judge the peoples in fairness. (R./)

2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5

Paul assures his readers that he prays for them and is glad for their zeal as converts

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.

Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21

Jesus refused to be drawn into a sterile argument, about paying taxes to Caesar

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that belong to him, and to God what belongs to God.”


Rendering to Caesar

No sooner had the Berlin Wall fallen, marking the end of the Cold War, than another ominous divide in our world made its appearance. This new division is between the Muslim world and what was once the Christian West. The Muslim world has experienced an extraordinary growth in fundamentalism. Many countries there have imposed or are seeking to impose the law of the Koran as the law of the state. Algeria in North Africa, just off the southern tip of Europe, is presently the scene of a murderous East-West conflict. Some European countries feel threatened, particularly France, with its large Muslim population and close historical ties with Algeria. Muslims demands that their schoolgirls be allowed to wear the veil in French public schools. Strange how people so often adopt the attitudes and strategies of their adversaries. Muslim fundamentalism in Arab countries has been matched by a noticeable “move to the right” in western countries. Now even the more moderate mainstream parties are calling for tighter immigration laws. The signs for the future are ominous, to say the least.

The clash between religion and the secular state is not new. The story of the Christian West is largely a history of this conflict. For the first few centuries of its existence, Christianity was fiercely persecuted by the state, leaving in its wake, a bloody trail of martyrs. All that changed with the conversion of the emperor Constantine. Soon Christianity became the state religion. Now the boot was on the other foot. The high point of the power of religion came at Canossa in the high Middle Ages when an excommunicated emperor knelt in the snow and humbly submitted to a pope to regain his imperial crown. In the Caesar-God contest, that round went decidedly to God. All throughout the Middle Ages the church extended its sphere of influence into the secular domain. With the break-up of Christianity in the sixteenth century the process began to reverse. The French Revolution marked a decisive turning point in favour of the state. Napoleon made the point dramatically, when he took the imperial crown from the pope and placed it himself on his own head. Ever since the state has been clawing back the ground once claimed by the church. And the church has ceded its former influence reluctantly. The boot has changed feet once more.

Today’s gospel, with its famous “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” has a particular topicality in our world. While the principle is clear and unambiguous, its application in particular circumstances is quite another matter. The Catholic Church Catechism points out three circumstances where citizens are obliged in conscience to refuse obedience to the civil authorities. They are when the laws are “contrary to the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons and to the teachings of the gospel.” The principle is clear. However, its application may not be so simple when there is an apparent clash of rights.

The complexity of these issues may render them unsuitable topics for the pulpit. What the preacher can and must do, is advise believers on the obligation of Christian behaviour in all circumstances. No matter how deeply they hold their convictions or how warmly they espouse their causes, they must never resort to violence. And that includes intimidation in all its forms. Muscular crusades, whether modern or medieval, cause irreparable harm. The end never justifies the means. We live, even in Ireland, in a world of pluralism. There are others whose principles and beliefs differ radically from ours. The state must also take cognisance of them. Our only resort is persuasion. Persuasion is always a gentle art. We best persuade by living our Christian lives to the full, remembering always that “the anger of man works not the justice of God.” (Liam Swords)

The observant tax-collector

Before being called by Christ to be one of his twelve Apostles, St Matthew was a tax collector operating in a customs house, somewhere in the north of Galilee. Since this profession required that he be able to read, write and especially keep records, these skills he would put to good use in writing his gospel account of Jesus’ mission. His literary style, as an evangelist, may be more artificial than that of St Luke, but there is no doubt that the gospel excerpt you have just heard is truly dramatic. The question put to Jesus, as to whether it was permissible for Jews to pay tribute to Caesar, gives a clear insight into the minds and strategy of the Pharisees. They were trying to walk Jesus into a political trap that would set him at odds with the Roman authorities, who were the rulers of Israel at that time, or, failing that, would discredit him before his own people. To avoid giving rise to suspicion of their intent, they decided not to get involved personally themselves. They sent some of their disciples along to Christ instead. It is quite likely that the leaders of the Pharisees stayed in the background because they wanted the followers of Herod, the Roman appointed tetrarch of Galilee, to take part also in the plot against Jesus, even though these Herodians, who openly advocated cooperation with the Romans, were normally their most bitter enemies.

The mock tributes to Jesus by this delegation, mention of his honesty, his fearlessness, his disregard for the status of those he encountered, all this flattery coming from people who normally were hostile to him merely highlights the hypocrisy of their praise. Then the trap was sprung: “tell us what is your own opinion? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Were Christ to answer, “Pay the tax,” then he would stand accused of collaboration with the Roman oppressors, and would incur the scorn of ordinary Jews each of whom had to pay a poll tax, from the age of twelve for women and fourteen for men. Were he to advocate non-payment, he could be arrested for sedition by the Roman authorities. Jesus’ response, however, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” left them confounded, and they slunk away. But Jesus’ reply left the matter in suspense, because it did not touch upon the right of the Romans to rule Israel, nor did it enumerate precisely the things o Caesar or those of God.

The opposing claims of God and state were left to be decided by the informed conscience of each individual, as they still are to this day. But there remains the warning of Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, that “no one can serve two masters; one cannot be the slave of both God and wealth” (Mt 6:24). Wealth in early OT times was seen as created by God, and bestowed on patriarchs, kings and leaders who had roles of special responsibility. Later on, wealth ceased to be regarded as a gift from God. “Woe to those who join house to house and field to field, until everywhere belongs to them,” Isaiah warned (Is 5:8), and Jesus himself said, “alas for you who are rich; you are having your life of ease now” (Lk 6:24). The world and all its resources were created by God for the benefit of all human beings without exception, and this must usually obtain alongside the right to private property, whether inherited or acquired by personal enterprise. It is the task of government to seek balance between policies that will help the common good of all the citizens. And taxation is still one of the most common means of achieving this.

Pádraig McCarthy notes:
The coin with the image of Tiberius Caesar had the inscription: “Augustus Ti(berius) Caesar Divi Aug(usti) F(ilius)”–The August (= consecrated, venerable) Tiberius Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus.” Tiberius is Son of a god! On the other side was inscribed “Pontif(ex) Maxim(us)” = “The Greatest Pontiff”: The High Priest! Matthew, Mark and Luke locate this encounter in the Temple, where graven images were absolutely forbidden. There were, however, the non-graven images: human beings, man and woman, made in the image and likeness of God. Give to God what belongs to God.


5 Responses

  1. Father Ron

    I love this site. Mine is more of a question: Is there any way the Presider’s Page can be available by Thursday morning/afternoon [California time] instead of Friday? We video-tape our mass for YouTube on Thursdays and would love to have it available.

    If not, understood.

    Thanks. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thara Benedicta

    Key message:
    Our Father’s anointing is sufficient for our calling.


    Takeaway from first reading:

    Short story:
    Seven year old little Jennie was eagerly waiting for Sister Mary’s call. She did not leave the door of her dormitory in the orphanage. She was picked up by the rag pickers in the streets and handed over to the orphanage. But today she is going to get new parents. Though last night she could not sleep, she was full of happiness and excitement.
    Just then Sister Mary called her. She saw a middle aged couple lovingly extending their hands towards her. “Come, come our dear child, tell us what do you want?” She asked back, “Can I ask you for a new frock?” They said, “We will buy you whatever you want. All we have is yours.”
    Jennie asked, “What should I do for you?” The couple said, “Call us Daddy and Mummy.”

    This is the same conversation between God and Israelites in the Bible at various times, inclusive of today’s first reading.

    Almighty God with overflowing love says, “Call me as your God. Even though you do not know me, I have chosen you. I will anoint you with the graces required for you.”

    Takeaway from Responsorial Psalm:

    Responsorial Psalm provides interesting ways to glorify our Father.
    1. Singing new songs of praises to our Father
    2. Telling about the miracles He has performed in our lives to our family and friends
    3. Trusting that He is our only true living God
    4. Glorifying His Holy name together with our families
    5. Worshipping the Lord in His house (church).

    Takeaway from second reading:

    “Our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.”

    Paul Silvanus and Timothy were chosen by God to proclaim His word. Hence God anointed them according to their calling. Paul explains that they were filled with Holy Spirit, power and full conviction that Jesus is our Lord. This was also witnessed by the Thessalonians.

    There is an anointing on each one of us to complete the chores which our Father has given us. This may be teaching in a school, parenting a child, priestly vocation, running a business, housekeeping, etc. There is no differentiation of big or small in God’s dictionary for work. All are equal in God’s eyes.

    Do we realise that we are anointed for doing what we need to do?

    Takeaway from Gospel reading:

    In the Bible, we see that all the men and women of God were filled with God’s wisdom. They were all able to answer the tricky questions put forth by the world.

    They were able to answer as God would have answered because they were anointed by God to answer these queries.

    In today’s Gospel, we find that Jesus was also tested. Since Jesus was anointed with the grace to tackle all the queries, He gave a fitting reply to the Pharisees.

    2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
    The anointing or the grace of God is sufficient for us to handle all the problems. God knows that we are not smart enough to handle our lives, and by His anointing only can we make it through.

    When God assigns a task for us, He also anoints us to execute the same task.

    Tips on trusting the anointing grace of God:

    1. When going through tough times, remember that God has anointed us for tough times.

    2. We will have to work hard for certain things in life while others will be enjoying them without undergoing any pain.

    Example situations: you may be undergoing many treatments to have a child, but for your own siblings it would have been a simple task.
    Remember that God has anointed you for tough times. By the grace of God, you will be able to sail through it.

    3. If you have a special child, then God chose you to parent His special child.

    You will be running all through the week for different therapies, undergoing a lot of shame and agony or others may make you feel less about yourself because you have a special child.

    We sing beautifully in our churches:
    “Make me a servant, humble and meek;
    Lord let me lift up those who are weak;”

    You are His anointed chosen servant, to take care of His weak child.

    Remember for every hard situation you face, God has blessed you His special grace.

  3. Pádraig McCarthy

    For Ireland this year, the Liturgical Calendar lists a gospel reading for Mission Sunday from John 17:11, 17-23.
    It can be found in the Lectionary, Vol III, page 543 (For the Spread of the Gospel).

  4. Eme Okwume

    The reflection on today’s Gospel reading by Thara Benedicta is quite rich. I subscribe to what she has written.In any situation we find ourselves in life God’s grace is required to sustain us. God’s grace can be enriched and sustained through prayer and by using Divine laws (The Ten Commandments of God) as a guide in our interaction with anyone. The ten commandments of God is a law that can bring global peace and harmony. God is universal. He does not discriminate. The universality of our God is made manifest in air (oxygen) we breathe. The oxygen in America is the same in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, Middle east, Australia, etc. If the air we breathe should be left to be controlled by humans he created, some people would die of asphyxiation (lack of oxygen) they would prevent others to access free air from our generous God. The ten Commandments are comprehensive and unique for peaceful coexistence in the world.

    May God bless and enrich the Association of Catholic Priests of Ireland with peace, love and divine wisdom. This platform has been a blessing to me in my faith journey.Thanks and remain blessed always.

  5. Thara Benedicta

    Thank You Father!!

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