For the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 22, 2017

“The kingdom of God (i.e. the sphere over which God rules and in which all believers live and operate) … includes … justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

This Sunday’s Theme: God is In Charge.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading tell us that God is the King of the universe and that our first allegiance belongs to Him. In Reading 2, Paul sees the Holy Spirit is active and in charge within the community as a result of his preaching and their acceptance of The Word of God.

  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 45:1,4-6      The Lord chooses Cyrus to subdue the nations for the sake of Israel.

  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 96:1,3-10      Sing praise to the Lord.

  • Reading 2 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b      Paul greets the Thessalonians, recalling the Gospel they received.

  • Gospel Matthew 22:15-21     The Pharisees send their disciples to test Jesus with a question about taxes.

Reading 1     Isaiah 45:1,4-6                          (One God)

Context –  The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – Cyrus was the pagan king of Persia who led the overthrow of the occupation by the Babylonians of Syria and Palestine (which includes Israel and Judah) in 539 B.C. Isaiah prophesied this overthrow 162 years earlier, in today’s reading, that Cyrus would be used (anointed) by God to deliver the Israelites from their captivity by Babylon at the end of the Exile. It is said that Cyrus was so impressed at seeing this prophesy of his name in the Jewish Holy Scriptures that he released the people in 538 B.C. to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

Thus says the LORD to His anointed (dedicated to the service of God; often implies one chosen for some great work), Cyrus (Cyrus is the only Old Testament non-Israelite to be anointed.), whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the gates unbarred: For the sake of Jacob, My servant, of Israel, My chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew Me not. I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides Me. It is I who arm you, though you know Me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, there is no other.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          God is directing Cyrus’ steps. He is making sure that the world history converges on His designs for a tiny captured group of people, Israel – See THEME. He hasn’t violated Cyrus’ free will, but He has guided Cyrus’ actions. 

Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 96:1,3-5, 7-10                       (The Lord is King)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm celebrates God as the King of Israel. As stated above in Reading 1, “I am the LORD, there is no other”.

R. – Give the Lord glory and honor.
Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all you lands. Tell His glory among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor. For great is the LORD and highly to be praised; awesome is He, beyond all gods. For all the gods of the nations are things of naught, but the LORD made the heavens.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor. Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and praise; give to the LORD the glory due His name! Bring gifts, and enter His courts.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor. Worship the LORD, in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth; say among the nations: The LORD is King, He governs the peoples with equity.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

 Reading 2.     1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b                         (Preaching the Gospel)      

Context – The church at Thessalonica was a very young church. Paul’s two letters focus upon confirming young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel, conditioning them to go on unto holy living, and comforting them regarding the return of Christ.
Today’s Reading – The tone of this reading is warm, tender and positive.  Paul obviously has great affection for this particular Christian community.

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 give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ (This is the earliest mention in Christian writing of the three theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity (love).), before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction. (St. Paul emphasizes that the power of the gospel lies not in the force of his own rhetoric but in the power of the Holy Spirit of God.)

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Gospel     Matthew 22:15-21                          (Lawful Taxes)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – This reading takes place when Jesus is in Jerusalem for His passion, death, and resurrection. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” suggests that one can indeed be loyal both to a religious tradition and to a good secular power (the USA for example – based upon Judeo Christian principles and precepts). It may be difficult at times, especially when their claims conflict, but it is possible.
Patricia Sanchez (theologian and writer for National Catholic Reporter) writes: “Everywhere we go we belong to God for we bear His imprint. We belong to God, not just in church but in our homes, our work places and in the voting booth and we must bring God’s values to all of these places.”

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a Truthful Man and that You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And You are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for You do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is Your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Jesus recognizes that both groups are trying to get Him to endorse a position which will offend one of them. The Pharisees hated the Roman taxes but the Herodians supported the Roman rule.)  Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed Him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that He said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 2242 – The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  “We must obey God rather than men”:   When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.