From Rev. Fr. Anthony Ekanem, MSP
The Bells of St. Mary’s
The Church of the Immaculate Conception
Twenty Ninth Sunday In Ordinary Time October 18, 2020
From Rev. Fr. Anthony Ekanem, MSP
ON WORLD MISSION SUNDAY
It maybe we have spent much of the past week doing things others have asked us to do:
• work for our bosses,
• errands for our spouses,
• homework for our teachers,
• care for our children or parents during this pandemic.
Hopefully, we have spent part of the past week also doing the things God asks of us, like bringing Christ's love to those most forgotten around the world.
Today, our Holy Father Pope Francis calls us to pull our resources together and consider those on mission worldwide. Here is one-day set aside to recommit, to view our solidarity, support, and collaboration with others in the works of Christ. Our Holy Father puts it this way, "In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the COVID - 19 pandemics, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah and theme of this year's WORLD MISSION SUNDAY: "Here I am, send me." (6:8) This invitation from God's merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity in the current world crisis."
WALKING ON THE EDGE
In our Liturgy today, two famous rulers dominate the readings: Cyprus, the Great, and Tiberius Caesar.
In the First Reading, we hear Isaiah extol Cyrus as God's anointed. Cyrus was not even Jewish, but he liberated the Jewish people when he conquered Babylon, so Isaiah considered him sent by God. Cyrus of Persia was credited with ending the Babylonian exile. Yet Isaiah is careful to note that Cyrus, unknowingly, is an agent of the God of Israel, who uses him to defeat Babylon and restore the Chosen People to their land. This is why Cyrus is called here the Lord's "anointed" (Messiah). Cyrus might be expected to believe that one of his national gods was responsible for assuring his victories, but this is not the case. God insists, there are no other gods. The broader implication is that the sovereign reach of God extends well beyond Israel to include all of earth's rulers, most of whom do not even know this God (yet).
The past three Sundays, Jesus tells the religious leaders that they are in danger of losing the Kingdom of God. This warning made them very angry that the Pharisees plot to trap Him in speech and discredit Him. They don't confront Him directly themselves but send their disciples and some Herodian's to do so. The collision of the Pharisees, who dislike being under Rome's power, and the Herodian's, who support the Romans agent in Galilee, Herod Antipas, is surprising. Perhaps their perception of Jesus as a common enemy united them.
Those sent address Jesus as "Teacher," a title which in Matthew indicates that they are not His disciples. They flatter Him that He is truthful, that what He teaches about the way of God accords with the truth, and that He is rightly indifferent to people's opinions and worldly status.
Jesus distinguishes God's role from Caesar's when asked by the Pharisees about paying taxes. The trap set for Jesus places Him in a bind. If He refuses to pay the Romans tax, He is a rebel. If He pays the tax too eagerly, some would consider Him a traitor to His people. Jesus cleverly avoids the trap by contrasting the image of Caesar with the image of God. The coin is stamped with Caesar's image; humans are stamped with God's image (Genesis 1:27; 9:6). The coin belongs to Caesar, so it's just a piece of metal; if he wants his coin back, give it to him. Jesus is far more concerned about making sure that God gets back what belongs to God; that is what Jesus' mission is all about.
Seeing their malice, Jesus throws some truths at them: they are hypocrites. And instead of giving them a simple yes or no, He asks them to do something: to show Him the Roman coin used to pay taxes. One of them digs out a denarius and hands it to Him. He keeps their attention focused on the coin by asking whose image and inscription it bears. When they answer "Caesar's," they fall into His trap. In his answer, Jesus recognizes that the State has a role, but its power is limited and does not supplant God.
Jesus' final words are pithier in Greek than English translations of them can be. He says, "Therefore, give back the things that belong to Caesar to Caesar and the things to God to God" – that's what Jesus wants to talk about.
Are you repaying to God what belongs to God?
How can you support World Mission Sunday during this COVID - 19 pandemic?
Have you ever been in a position of authority as a parent or pastor, babysitter, teacher, or boss where you had to walk the narrow path between pleasing "the crowd" and following the rules?
on Saturday, October 17 at 12:22PM