Of Caesar and God

Amicable Conflict Management

Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year, A – October 22, 2023: World Mission Sunday.

Readings: Isaiah 45:1,4-6; Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1,3-5,7-10;1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 & Gospel Matthew 22:15-21.

Theme: Of Caesar and God

Sunday Synopsis

In the first reading, God anoints Cyprus, a pagan king who does not know him to demonstrate the from the rising of the sun to its setting, he is unrivalled. The second reading tells how Paul and Silvanus laud the Thessalonians for their “faith in action,” working for love, and persevering in hope. The gospel tells how the Pharisees who opposed paying taxes to the Romans connived with the Herodians to ask Jesus whether it is permissible to pay taxes to Ceasar or not. Though the question had political undertones, his answer would set the tone for relations between the Church and the state. Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees and Herodians shows that they had missed the mark because both Caesar and his image belong to God. We are called to responsible citizenship while giving God his due.

Introduction

Beloved in Christ, today is World Mission Sunday. Our reflection touches on the theme for the 2023 World Mission Sunday: “Hearts on fire, feet on the move” (Cf. Lk 24:13-35). Our message bothers on ensuring that we place the Caesars of this life where they belong. This is because both Caesar and his image belong to God. It also underlines the responsibilities of Christians to the state.

Background and Summary of the Readings

In the first reading (Isaiah 45:1,4-6), God anoints Cyprus, a pagan king who does not know him to demonstrate that the from the rising of the sun to its setting, he is unrivalled – there is none like him.

The second reading (1 Thess. 1:1-5) tells how Paul and Silvanus laud the Thessalonians for their “faith in action,” working for love, and persevering in hope. They remind the elect that the Good News is the power of the holy spirit, a product of their conviction.

The gospel (Matt. 11:15-21) tells how the Pharisees who opposed paying taxes to the Romans connived with the Herodians – Jews belonging to Herod’s party who supported paying taxes to Rome, asked Jesus whether it is permissible to pay taxes to Ceasar or not. On taking the denarius, he replied them: “…give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belons to God.” Though the question had political undertones, his answer would set the tone for relations between the Church and the state.

Pastoral Lessons

1. Serve God: By anointing a pagan king for his kind purposes, the first reading invites us to serve God with an undivided heart while leaning the pope’s message for WMS which urges us to emulate the disciples on the way to Emmaus by being missionary disciples who allow God’s word to illumine and transform their hearts.

2. Be Courageous: St. Paul’s call to faith, hope and love connects with the holy father’s invitation for us be courageous amid a world of tribulations because Jesus has “conquered the world” (Jn 16:33) by being committed to the Eucharist, sharing the joy of the risen Christ with others while ensuring communion and the participation of all towards peace and salvation.

3. Give God his Due: Jesus’s answer to the Pharisees and Herodians indicate that they missed the mark because both Caesar and his image belong to God which further shows that both divine and political power are God’s – He sets the benchmark for how Christians should engage in active politics and survive in civil society while being committed to their faith.

4. Be a Responsible Citizen: The laity who share in the Priestly, Kingly and Prophetic mission of Christ are invited “to put to use every Christian and evangelical possibility latent but already present and active in the affairs of the world” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, #70) by respecting civil authorities and paying taxes.

5. Ensure Synergy: Priests are urged to serve as bridge-builders between Church and state by jettisoning materialism and partisan politics in order to embrace walking the talk, talking truth to power and dogged witnessing calling to mind the gracious words of Pope Paul VI – “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

Summary Lines

1. In the first reading, God anoints Cyprus, a pagan king who does not know him to demonstrate the from the rising of the sun to its setting, he is unrivalled.

2. The second reading, tells how Paul and Silvanus laud the Thessalonians for their “faith in action,” working for love, and persevering in hope.

3. They remind the elect that the Good News is the power of the holy spirit, a product of their conviction.

4. The gospel tells how the Pharisees who opposed paying taxes to the Romans connived with the Herodians and asked Jesus whether it is permissible to pay taxes to Ceasar or not.

5. Though the question had political undertones, his answer would set the tone for relations between the Church and the state.

Conclusion

In the spirit of this Sunday, we recall that “some go to the mission by giving and some give to the mission be going.” May we carry out the Church’s mission while praying for missionaries far away from home that God may guide and bless their work. Happy World Mission Sunday – Have a great week ahead!

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