18 October 2020: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
SHARING THE LIVING WORD
by FR. Emmanuel, Pastor
‘The Real Missionary Spirit’
The question “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” is brought by the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Pharisees were strong nationalists and totally anti-Roman while the Herodians were willing to collaborate with the Romans, hoping to benefit from them. This question is designed to trap Jesus in one of two ways: If he said that it was lawful to pay the tax, the Pharisees and their supporters would turn against him and he would be discredited in the eyes of the people who were against paying taxes to a pagan emperor. If he said that it was unlawful to pay the tax, the Herodians and their allies would report him to the Roman officials, who would then arrest him as a revolutionary.
Jesus understanding their trickery answers them “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” indicates that the tax should be paid, since the emperor’s image and inscription is on the coin and it belongs to him. We have to be aware of our duties and privileges as a citizen of a country. A loyal Christian is always a loyal citizen. Failure in good citizenship is also failure in Christian duty. We fulfill our duties to our country by loyally obeying the just laws of the State. We are to obey the government, even when it is pagan and non-Christian.
In the first reading prophet Isaiah declares that Cyrus, even though a pagan, was God’s instrument. While the Jews were exiled to Babylon, the Persian emperor Cyrus defeated Babylon and liberated its captives. The Jews were free to return to Jerusalem. The amazing fact is that God actually used Cyrus to restore His people to their homeland. He is the God not only of the Jews, but of history and of the whole world.
Coming back to the Gospel passage, the question Jesus was asked could have been phrased, “Whose side are you on? With Israelites or with Romans?” Jesus’ answer was “On God’s side!” His mission was to save people from their sin, no matter where they lived, what language they spoke, what currency they used, or under what kind of government they suffered. Jesus reminds His questioners that if they are so concerned and careful about paying taxes to the state, they should be much more concerned and careful about their service of God and their obligations to God as their creator and lord. We should never give things to Caesar that belong to God.
Jesus here reasserts God’s ownership and rule. All of us are always bound to render to God the things that are God’s that is, our body, our soul, and our will. We give to God our own selves because we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). You are God’s craftsmanship and you are bought with a price of God’s blood poured out for you on the cross.
To give to God what belongs to God is to share the goods of the earth! Belonging to God means belonging to His creation, belonging to each other. Give to others what belongs to others or what is due to others and that is the basic value of Justice. This is the real missionary spirit. Today we are celebrating World Mission Sunday.
As we celebrate the World Mission Day, it is our obligation to reflect our responsibility, as the members of the kingdom of God, to give what is due to God and to bring this message over all the nations even where Christ is not heard of. Today we pray for all the missionaries all over the world who have dedicated their lives for this noble cause and we too share that cause and are asked to do whatever we can do. The Church is in its very nature Missionary. Christ is the first Missionary, being sent by God the Father to preach the good news to the poor. All of his followers are missionaries as the disciples of First Missionary Jesus Christ sent by God. We also specially remember today all the missionaries who sacrifice their life for the spreading of the Gospel.
Today we remember our beloved deceased Pastor Fr. John M. Phillips who served this parish over 17 years. I was really fortunate to be with him over 13 years at Holy Faith. I am sure everyone in the parish has a lot of sweet memories with Fr. John. I was always very much impressed by his simplicity in life and his great love for Liturgy. His vision and mission to build a community of compassion in Christ always inspires us. He was a great gift God has given to Holy Faith, and one year ago we returned that gift to God our loving Father. Today I wish to conclude these words with a prayer for Fr. John.
Let us pray:
O God, You raised your servant, John Phillips,
to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ,
according to the order of Melchisedech,
giving him the sublime power
to offer the Eternal Sacrifice,
to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar,
and to absolve the sins of men and women in Your own Holy Name.
We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness
and to forget his faults,
admitting him in to Thy Holy Presence,
there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labors.
This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord.
May God bless you all!