22 October 201729 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
29 Ordinary Time
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year - Cycle A - Matthew 22:15-21

A priest in a homily asked: "Would it not be wonderful if schools got all the money they needed to educate kids and the generals had to hold cake sales and ticket raffles for their bombs?" The priest was told by an angry parish council to stick to spiritual affairs and avoid politics. The council used today's Gospel as the final nail in his summary court martial: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." The wounded priest took the advice of his Employer Jesus in Luke 9:5. He shook the dust of the town from his feet. Let's run this parish council critique by Moses. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, `I have seen the affliction of my people and I would deliver them from the pharaoh.' Moses replied, `Lord, perhaps I should fall on my knees and say unto pharaoh, `Let my people go.' The Lord said angrily unto Moses, `Thou art a man of God, not a lobbyist or politician. Mind thine own business.' "Moses held his tongue.

The Jews fled Egypt and reached the Red Sea. The Egyptians pursued them. The Jews cried to Moses, `Part the Red Sea so that we may pass on dry ground. Then allow the waters to close again and swallow up our enemies.' Moses grew hysterical, `I am a man of God, not a hydraulic engineer. Nor do I concern myself with military matters. Buy thee a nuclear bomb.' "The Jews entered the Desert of Sinai. They wandered for forty years. Finally they begged Moses, `Guide us to the promised land of milk and honey.' He answered, `Get tour guides to lead thee. I stick to mine prayers.' "Thirsty, they begged Moses to smite the rock and bring forth water. He replied, `Dost thou ask a man of God to develop a Sinai Water Plan? Call thee a plumber.' "Moses went up to Mount Sinai. The Lord said, `I have written ten commandments.' Moses asked, `Lord, shall I read them to your people?' The Lord replied hotly, `It is not for thee to introduce legislative programs.

Don't meddle in politics.' "The Jews approached the promised land. Moses taught them canasta and bridge and organized bazaars and dances. He grew in the respect of his flock. On his death bed, he advised his successor Joshua, `Avoid controversy. Flee strife. Care not for the hunger or thirst of thy flock. All who follow this creed will be respected men of God. Thou wilt be dull and alienate the young, but at least no one will attack thee.'" (Unknown) Moses was of course a controversial fellow. He was deeply involved in the physical needs of the Jews. Without him, they might have remained in Egypt building pyramid high risers. But so too was our Jesus a man of controversy. He argued with public authorities. He publicly badmouthed a king. He picked up a whip to expel greedy bankers from His Temple. He was concerned not merely with the souls of people but their bodies as well. Why else would He perform miracles to feed them when hungry and cure them when sick?

If one listens to politicians, you get the impression that God has died and left them in charge. If politicians are in charge, how come thirty million Americans are hungry today, five to seven million are homeless, forty-two million are without health insurance, and twenty-five percent of US children live in poverty? So, to conclude that "give Caesar what is Caesar's..." confines the Church to narrowly defined spiritual parameters is a bad reading of today's Gospel. Christians, who ask critical moral questions in whatever area, take their stand with Moses and more importantly Jesus. The record shows Caesar is often wrong. The Church must demand that justice come raining down like a waterfall. It is the politicians' job to fix the plumbing. Raising moral questions will make us controversial.

But if Jesus and Moses ran that risk, should we bury our heads in the sand? Some Christians and parish councils seem to believe Jesus was passing by a cross, jumped up, and committed suicide. In fact, Christ raised many upsetting questions. People murdered Him so He would shut up and not disturb their conscience. It was His plan to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. That should be our intent. Christians should be the most exciting people in the country. A good measuring rod is this. If everyone in our society agrees with us or we agree with everybody, we are doing something wrong. We must examine our conscience. We must not take the strong message of Christ and turn it into fat free ice cream.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
29 Ordinary Time
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time: God and Caesar

They tried to trap Jesus. "Is it lawful to pay tax to the Romans or not?" If he said "yes," they could have declared him a traitor and a Roman sympathizer. He would be a Jew telling people to support their oppressors. If he said "No," then they would have run to the Romans telling them that he was preaching sedition. Jesus settled the question with a simple, but profound answer: "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." This passage leads us to consider how we carry out our responsibilities to our country and to our God. We are Catholic Christians. We are Americans. We take our citizenship in our country extremely seriously. We begin our school days with the Pledge of Allegiance. Every sporting event, in fact, all major gatherings of Americans, begin with the National Anthem. Perhaps, some of you are considering a life in the Armed Services. Our country needs men and women like you to defend it here and in foreign lands. If you were to join the services, you would be putting your lives in danger for the sake of the rest of us. That is patriotic. That is noble. Patriotism is a virtue.

We support and pray for the men and women in the service. We would not have our country as we know it were it not for them and those who fought and died for it in the past. We are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our responsibility to God is infinitely greater than our responsibility to our country. Will we ever be forced to choose between country and God? Hopefully, no, but for us there is no choice. The bottom line is that we are Christians first and forever. I want to tell you about two men, one a saint and the other a contemporary king. Both were confronted with having to choose between their country and their faith. The saint is St Thomas More. Thomas More was a friend of King Henry VIII of England. Thomas was a brilliant lawyer and a man of deep faith. The king had a deep respect for Thomas. He named him to be the country's Chancellor. Thomas served the King well. He joined the king on opposing the attacks on the Church made by Martin Luther. Henry VIII wrote an essay supporting the Church that was probably ghost written by Thomas. To this day, the Monarchs of England retain the title "Defender of the Faith" that was given to them by the Pope in gratitude for Henry's support. Then the whole problem of Henry's marriage came up.

When the Henry's request for an annulment was denied, Henry declared himself to be head of the Church. All in England were then required to sign the oath of supremacy rejecting the authority of Rome in religious matters. Thomas would not. For this he was first stripped of his position as chancellor, then he was imprisoned and finally he was beheaded. Thomas' last words were: ?I die as the King's faithful servant, but God's first.? Given the choice between following his conscience or rejecting the truth, Thomas saw no choice. Given the choice of choosing king or God, he chose God. The second person I want to point out to you is a former king of Belgium, King Baudouin. He reigned not that long ago, from 1951 to 1993. He was very much loved by all his people. Baudouin and his wife, Queen Fabiola, were fervent Catholics. They supported many Catholic charities, the foremost being those that cared for mentally and physically challenged children. They were also patriotic. They loved Belgium and the people that they believed God gave them to govern. Then their country's parliament passed a law allowing abortion, even in late term situations. But according to Belgium's law, the law could not be enacted unless the King signed it.

King Baudouin refused. He said that he was placed on the throne to care for the lives of his people. He would not destroy the lives of the most vulnerable. The King was forced to abdicate, which he did rather than sign. Actually, the parliament played a political game. They declared him incompetent, forced his abdication and then enacted the law on their own, something that was permitted between reigns in Belgium law. Then, a few days later, they reversed themselves and returned Baudouin to the throne. Baudouin became an example to his people and to the world of the importance of being first a member of the Kingdom of God. One more person should be mentioned, although he is often misquoted. That is Stephen Decatur. Perhaps you have heard the quote from Stephen Decatur, "My country right or wrong, but my country". That is actually a misquote, or at least a quote taken out of context.

Stephen Decatur was a naval commander at the dawn of our nation. He was sent to defend American merchant marine ships that had been attacked off of Africa. The soldiers on his ships who fought on shore were the first Marines, fighting on the shores of Tripoli. Decatur was questioned on why he would allow our country to get involved in foreign affairs. He said that he was merely following the orders sent to him. When he said, "My country right or wrong, but my country" Decatur was merely saying that It was his job to be a naval commander, not the Secretary of State. He was not saying that we should do immoral actions if ordered to do so by the country. As citizens who care deeply for our country, we need to work hard to direct our country's paths to morality.

We have a responsibility to support God and country. But we also believe that a priority must be kept: God first, country second. We need to do all in our power to help our country make good, moral laws so that we might always be "one nation under God." There are many, many ways that we can guide our country to being one that serves God in its care for all our citizens. We have a responsibility to fight against laws that destroy life, from womb to tomb. We have a responsibility to change a system that allows the mentally challenged to be homeless. There are many other ways that we need to be active in helping our country make moral choices, support noble ideals. We are reminded to today that we have to be active, courageous and moral citizens of this great nation. That is how we can Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
29 Ordinary Time
Your Work of Faith (October 22, 2017)

Bottom line: We give thanks to God for your work of faith. This month I am in Peru for the work of the Mary Bloom Center and also to offer a six-month Mass for my Peruvian godson - Father Narciso Valencia. Today┬┤s second reading spoke to me: "We give thanks to God always for you...calling to mind your work of faith." I got to know Narciso as a bright, good-hearted seminarian. In 1989 I had the honor being "padrino" (sponsor) of his ordination. His work as a priest made an impression on me, especially his ministry to youth. Over the last 8 years we were able to work out visits to the United States where he won the hearts of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic parishioners. His "work of faith" was gentle but steady and generous.

I remember times when we would meet with young adults who often invited us for further discussion and fellowship. I'd tell Fr. Valencia, "you go, I am old." I have to admit I didn't go even when I was young, but Fr. Valencia sensed that time together mattered in forming disciples. He was the kind of young (and middle-age) priest we all want. During this visit to Peru I learned a couple things about his work of faith. His brother told me that when he went identify Narciso's body, his skull was battered beyond recognition. However on his chest, near his heart, was the impression of a small crucifix he wore. I learned something else, something I imagined but never heard confirmed: Fr. Valencia was a candidate for bishop. What a great bishop he would have made! What counts of course is not one's office but the work of faith. Faith makes possible a relationship with God in Jesus. As St. Paul says: "We give thanks to God always for...your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
29 Ordinary Time
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Classic Matthew 22:15-21

Gospel Summary: This gospel about paying taxes to Caesar is the first of a set of three passages in which Matthew describes how hostile religious leaders of his day attempt to trap Jesus with trick questions. The incident about paying taxes together with the following exchanges about the resurrection and about the greatest commandment indicate a growing conflict which will eventually result in Jesus execution under the Roman government. After offering some flattering remarks about Jesus being a truthful man who teaches the way of God, the Pharisees lay their trap by asking "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?"

If Jesus replies that the tax should be paid, he will lose the esteem of the majority of his fellow Jews, oppressed as they are by a foreign, pagan government and army. If he rejects payment of the tax, he will be arrested and executed for instigating a rebellion. Jesus, recognizing the malicious intent of the questioners, asks them for a Roman coin that would be used to pay the tax. When they produce the coin with Caesar's image on it, he says to them: "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." They are reminded that they themselves have God's image impressed on them, and must repay to God what belongs to God -- that is, their entire being. Life Implications: A life implication of this incident in which Jesus outwits his opponents is suggested by the entire context of Matthew's gospel.

Matthew begins his gospel by telling us about the birth of Jesus in fulfillment of what the Lord had said through the prophet, " they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us' " (Mt 1:22-23). This is the good news Matthew proclaims: In Jesus Christ, God becomes part of our world in a new way -- beyond the presence through creation, beyond the presence through the prophets. In the scene with the Pharisees, we see that Jesus is involved in the realities of the political and religious situation of his nation and his people. He knows what?s going on. He is not intimidated by power. He calls his adversaries hypocrites to their face, and then beats them at their own game. As Emmanuel, he will continue to "teach the way of God in accordance with the truth" even though he knows the result will ultimately be his arrest and execution.

Matthew concludes his gospel, and at the same time extends it into the future with the promise of the now -vindicated Risen Lord: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me . . . make disciples of all nations. . . . and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28: 18-20). Jesus, in a new way, continues to be Emmanuel, "God with us." To be a Christian disciple in our time and place means to actualize God?s presence and rule as Jesus did in his historical time and place. This means that a disciple ought to know what?s really going on, without illusion.

Although it may not happen in the extreme circumstances of Mt 10:16-25, it is hard to avoid the life implication that a disciple of Jesus at some point will be faced with the moral necessity of speaking the truth in an adversarial confrontation, regardless of the consequences. The assurance that Christ keeps his promise to be "God with us" ought to save us from being intimidated, even if it's just writing a "letter to the editor" about a controversial issue. And with a little work on our part, we may even be able "to teach the way of God in accordance with the truth" with some of the poetic flair and wit of Christ. That special presence of Christ's spirit would be a nice gift to pray for in this Sunday's liturgy.
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

29th Sunday of the Year,
Modern Lectionary 145

Today's first reading from the prophet Isaiah gives us a lot to consider. It mentions Cyrus, a 6th century B.C. Persian king, describing him as the "anointed" of the Lord. Cyrus was quite a figure in the ancient middle east, conquering many other kingdoms and ruling over an enormous area; he is also mentioned in the books of Ezra and 2 Chronicles. The Hebrew word describing Cyrus as "anointed" is meshiach, which we recognize more in its English form "messiah." The fact that Isaiah applies the term "messiah" to a pagan king might strike us as surprising since we normally think of it in association with Christ. Isaiah thus strongly underlines God's sovereignty in employing whichever human agents he chooses in history. he reading goes on to indicate the uniqueness of the Lord "there is no other god" and the unstoppable nature of his messiah. In Isaiah's day, that was Cyrus, and later, it is Jesus Christ, "Christ" also meaning "anointed." Isaiah also emphasizes that God will send as his messiah whomever he wishes, even a pagan like Cyrus, and that the Lord is not like other earthly kings and need not conform to such expectations. God and his agents must therefore be accorded a respect and reverence which is far beyond what the people accord to their self-appointed heroes. This picture becomes clearer in the Gospel where Jesus, the definitive messiah of Israel, is confronted with a trick question by the Pharisees and Herodians. Just as many people in Old Testament times thought they had the messiah figured out, and the pagan Cyrus had no part in their vision, so too the Pharisees and their friends thought they had the messiah "pegged," and Jesus was not part of their picture.

As a result they tried to dispose of him with an insincere question intended to indict him either in the eyes of the common people or of their Roman overlords. The Pharisees think that there is no way out, and in strictly human terms there was not: it appeared that Jesus had to either seem to grovel before the hated Romans by consenting to the payment of the census tax, or he would be easily subject to denunciation and arrest as a dishonest tax cheat. But Jesus transcended this human logic and responded according to his own will. He showed his opponents that the messiah did not need to fit their expectations, and that it is God who governs his people, not the other way around. We all fall into the Pharisees' way of thinking at times, either fashioning God in our own image and likeness, or thinking that the Lord's anointed is accountable to us: "I prayed, but did not receive what I asked for!?

The truly remarkable thing is that through the incarnation God does take on our human image and likeness and makes himself accountable to us of his own free will. This is a divine condescension that proves that messianic power is truly made perfect in weakness?in contrast to the grasping for power of the Pharisees, or to Cyrus' earthly might. This Sunday God's messiah is presented to us in all his glory and humility in both the scriptures and the Eucharist. Let us rejoice not that Jesus outwitted the Pharisees and Herodians, but rather that he offers the true anointing of salvation to all who come to him, and invites us to share in it through the breaking of the bread. Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
29 Ordinary Time
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Pharisees decide to trap Jesus. They have taken enough stick from him and now they decide it is pay back time. St Matthew's Gospel is put together in several great sweeps. First there is the Genealogy and the Infancy Narratives, then we move to the Baptism of Jesus and his Temptation in the Wilderness, after which we come to the call of the disciples and the Sermon on the Mount. Then he presents us with a series of miracles interspersed with teaching. Jesus then spends a period instructing the Apostles. After this comes a period of teaching of the people by means of parables interspersed with various events such as the Beheading of John the Baptist and the Transfiguration. We then get to the expulsion of the traders from the Temple and Jesus' authority is questioned by the Chief Priests and Elders.

After all, by entering the Temple he has entered their territory as they see it and has consequently become a threat to them. Jesus answers them with the parables we have heard these last three Sundays. The first was about the labourers in vineyard being hired at the eleventh hour; then we had one about the wicked tenants who kill the master's son and then came last week's about the wedding feast. All these parables are very pointed and obviously directed against the Chief Priests and leaders of the people. So now they plot against him, trying to trick him by asking whether it is right to give tribute to Caesar. If he answers that it is permissible then he is guilty of co-operating with the oppressor and loses credibility with the Jews. If he answers that it is not permissible then he is guilty of rebellion and can be denounced to the Romans. They think they've got him. Jesus shows himself to be much cleverer than they first thought. He first accuses them of hypocrisy and of setting a trap and then easily evades the question turning it instead into a spiritual challenge to them.

He challenges them on their own ground demanding to know if they render to God what belongs to him. This makes them back off very quickly. But they don't back off for long. Soon enough the Sadducees return asking tricky questions about the resurrection and then the Pharisees have a go by asking about the greatest commandment. Jesus has had enough by then and he launches into quite a tirade about the hypocrisy of the leaders of the people. After a few more parables about the end-times Matthew quickly moves us on to the events of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. That is quite a breathtaking sweep. In about forty pages of any normal Bible Matthew gives us a complete overview of the life of Jesus. He covers the principal events of his ministry, gives us a summary of his teaching and a clear understanding of who he is and his crucial role in the salvation of the world. Not bad for forty pages. There are probably far less words in St Matthew's Gospel than you would read in your average Sunday newspaper. That only leaves one little question--when did you last read it? I remember visiting Glasgow and going to see that great picture by Salvador Dali entitled Christ of St John of the Cross. My cousin was studying medicine there and she went with me together with her current boyfriend.

He was a young Scandinavian photographer in his early twenties and had been brought up with no concept of God or religion whatsoever. He asked me quite simply and directly what the picture was all about. I was taken aback at the challenge of explaining from scratch the whole story of salvation to someone who had never heard it. Of course, I did my best, as any of you would have done. Incidentally, the thing that he found most difficult was why Christ's sacrifice was necessary because he had no understanding of the concept of sin. I had up to that point assumed that even a person who didn't believe in God but was brought up in our society would have a basic understanding of the principles of Christianity because it is transmitted through our culture. But I now realise that this is increasingly not the case. You would be quite astonished at how few teenagers know the Our Father; while this is definitely a religious deprivation it is also an extraordinary cultural deprivation. Increasingly we who believe are going to be put on the spot and asked to explain our beliefs to those who have absolute no prior knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. Years ago, when we asked our teachers why we had to learn our catechism we were told, "In case you meet a Protestant and they ask you questions."

Nowadays Protestants don't quiz us anymore, perhaps because sectarianism has declined and we realise we have too much in common. But perhaps it is also because there are far less of them around anymore. We are far more likely to be quizzed by people who haven't the first clue about the things of God, by people who have never even considered that there might be a God. We need to constantly re-examine our faith, we need to sit down and study the Gospels, we need to spend more and more time in prayer and thought, and we need to join in discussions on religious matters so that we are properly equipped to proclaim and explain our faith in Christ. We need to get that Bible off the top shelf and dust it down and read it; that is if there is one there in the first place!

When Jesus demands of the Pharisees if they give to God what belongs to God he is also asking us the very same question. We ought to ask ourselves if we have given the time and the thought and the application needed to bring us to a true appreciation of his action in the world sufficient to enable us to explain ourselves to those with no knowledge of God. The world is thirsting for the spiritual; spirituality is the new word on the lips of many people today. They do not know that spirituality comes not from within ourselves but is a direct gift from God. We are his messengers, his means of communicating with them. Let us prepare ourselves adequately for this vital ministry.
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