Homily on Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 22: 15-21 for Sunday, October 19

Homily for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday OR 2014;

Rev. James M. DiLuzio C.S.P.   (Homily based on Biblical Readings to be found at the end of this post.)

In the beginning, God created human beings as social beings, inter-dependent and eventually, capable of abstract thinking.  This gift motivated us to seek wisdom, search for meaning, foster understanding and seek God.  We Christians understand God as Relationship itself—an essential interdependent primacy of Father, Son and Spirit – a God who for no other reason except love—frivolous love, magnanimous love, relentless and unconditional love—places RELATIONSHIP as the highest value of life.  Therefore Saint Paul was inspired to write in his Letter to the Romans chapter 8: that NOTHING “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  “Nothing” is very important because it includes all of our sins and the sins of the world.  By putting relationship first above all things, God’s spirit is the foundation of Hope, the inspiration for Hope with Jesus as its ultimate and complete human expression. So why do we need Caesar?  With Christ at the center of our lives, why do we need government?  Obviously, not everyone centers his or her life in God and for God.  Not everyone is grateful for life let alone grateful to God for it.  We need government because sin is everywhere rupturing relationships — relationships with one another, among nations, with creation and with God.

Make no mistake:  “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” is not about the need for separation of Church and State.  Instead, Jesus’ statement is a warning that while we do need governments, we need to keep the state’s claim on us in perspective.   True, without government, we the people of the world would devolve into an anarchy of “every man for himself, every woman for herself.”  We need government because not everyone takes the Ten Commandments to heart, nor accepts the Beatitudes as his or her life-time goal.

Furthermore, we need governments because, as biblical history makes clear, human beings intrinsically insist on having figure heads, spokespeople and leaders. It’s in our relational DNA. So we’ve learned from the time of the Judges and Kings (from Gideon to David to Zedekiah) God can and does use individual leaders of peoples—emperors, governors, senators—for God’s good purposes.  And God uses secular as well as faith-centered leaders.   Isaiah the prophet highlighted this fact in celebrating the pagan Cyrus of Persia’s decision to allow peoples exiled by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonian to return to their native lands including the Israelites and Judah-ites to the land of their ancestors.  Still, in the course of human events, wise and benevolent acts on the part of world leaders doesn’t seem to happen very often.  Clearly, each individual’s capabilities as leader are limited just as we, too, are limited.  The lesson here is clear: the centrality of God-centered life.  It offers the only genuine hope for us, whether our leaders seek Divine guidance or not.

Thus today’s Scriptures invite us to recognize that part of the Church’s hope for this world is our participation in government.  To give God the glory that is due, we must support our local communities and continue to cultivate and improve our personal and national outlooks.  For God is all in all.  The faithful must keep up with the signs of the times, read the newspapers, watch a variety of news programs, and discuss the issues respectfully and lovingly with people who hold different points of view from your own. And when you do, be mindful that a human being is far more than an expression of a political theory, an economic entity or a mere consumer of goods.

So, by all means, register, vote and encourage others to do so. But as you do, register this:  you are not voting for Messiah. We already have one.  The more we cultivate continual worship of the Living God in our hearts, minds bodies, the more we seek out friendships beyond our “comfort zones,” Christ will reconcile the haves and the have-nots, the weak and strong.   Through Christ, in Christ and with Christ, you and I will find that to be fully human is to celebrate the Divine Spark in all of us.  All of us.  Make sure our leaders know that. And isn’t that what this and each and every Eucharist is about?

FYI:  Here are the Biblical Readings:

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 145

Reading 1                                                                                                                                                          IS 45:1, 4-6

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
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.

[45:1] Anointed: in Hebrew, mashiah, from which the word “Messiah” is derived; from its Greek translation, Christos, we have the title “Christ.” Applied to kings, “anointed” originally referred only to those of Israel, but it is here given to Cyrus because he is the agent of the Lord.

* [45:2] Bronze doors: those defending the city gates of Babylon.

* [45:6] The nations will come to know that Israel’s God is the only God; cf. also vv.2025.

Responsorial Psalm                                                                                                   PS 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10

R/ (7b) 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 nought,
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.
* [Psalm 96] A hymn inviting all humanity to praise the glories of Israel’s God (Ps 96:13), who is the sole God (Ps 96:46). To the just ruler of all belongs worship (Ps 96:710); even inanimate creation is to offer praise (Ps 96:1113). This Psalm has numerous verbal and thematic contacts with Is 4055, as does Ps 98. Another version of the Psalm is 1 Chr 16:2333.

* [96:4] For references to other gods, see comments on Ps 58 and 82.

  1. [96:1]Ps 98:1;Is 42:10.
  2. [96:3]Ps 98:4;105:1.
  3. [96:4]Ps 48:2;95:3145:3.
  4. [96:5]Ps 97:7;115:48Is 40:171 Cor 8:4.
  5. [96:8]Ps 29:2.
  6. [96:10]Ps 75:4;93:1.

Reading 2                                                                                                                                                   1 THES 1:1-5B

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,
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.

* [1:1] On the address, see note on Rom 1:17.

* [1:3] Faith…love…hope: this, along with 1 Thes 5:8, is the earliest mention in Christian literature of the three “theological virtues” (see 1 Cor 13:13). The order here stresses eschatological hope, in line with the letter’s emphasis on the Lord’s second, triumphal coming, or parousia (1 Thes 1:102:12193:134:135:115:23).

* [1:6] Imitators: the Pauline theme of “imitation” (see 1 Thes 2:141 Cor 4:1611:1;2 Thes 3:9) is rooted in Paul’s view of solidarity in Christ through sharing in Jesus’ cross and in the Spirit of the risen Lord.

  1. [1:1]Acts 15:40;16:131917:14152 Thes 1:12.
  2. [1:2]2 Thes 1:3.
  3. [1:4]2 Thes 2:13.
  4. [1:5]Acts 13:52;17:19.

Gospel                                                                                                                                                                MT 22:15-21

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?”
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.”

* [22:1522] The series of controversies between Jesus and the representatives of Judaism (see note on Mt 21:2327) is resumed. As in the first (Mt 21:2327), here and in the following disputes Matthew follows his Marcan source with few modifications.

* [22:15] The Pharisees: while Matthew retains the Marcan union of Pharisees and Herodians in this account, he clearly emphasizes the Pharisees’ part. They alone are mentioned here, and the Herodians are joined with them only in a prepositional phrase of Mt 22:16. Entrap him in speech: the question that they will pose is intended to force Jesus to take either a position contrary to that held by the majority of the people or one that will bring him into conflict with the Roman authorities.

* [22:16] Herodians: see note on Mk 3:6. They would favor payment of the tax; the Pharisees did not.

* [22:17] Is it lawful: the law to which they refer is the law of God.

* [22:19] They handed him the Roman coin: their readiness in producing the money implies their use of it and their acceptance of the financial advantages of the Roman administration in Palestine.

* [22:21] Caesar’s: the emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14–37). Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar: those who willingly use the coin that is Caesar’s should repay him in kind. The answer avoids taking sides in the question of the lawfulness of the tax. To God what belongs to God: Jesus raises the debate to a new level. Those who have hypocritically asked about tax in respect to its relation to the law of God should be concerned rather with repaying God with the good deeds that are his due; cf. Mt 21:4143.

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One thought on “Homily on Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 22: 15-21 for Sunday, October 19

  1. Beautiful homily. “The more we cultivate continual worship of the Living God in our hearts, minds , bodies the more we seek out friendships beyond our “comfort zones”, Christ will reconcile the haves and the have nots, the weak and the strong.” Thanks for a deep and applicable insight. I must now face the hard work of trying to live it. thank you!

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