Twenty-Nineth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

 

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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.”

OPENING PRAYER

Offering and Prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola – “Suscipe”

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

grant that we may always conform our will to yours

and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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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.

APPLICATION

God is indeed the lord of the universe. As he used the pagan king Cyrus in the sixth century B.C., so is he using the neo-pagans of today to carry out his divine plans for mankind. Cyrus did not know the true God and was unaware that he was cooperating with him, and neither do today’s atheists realize that they are helping to fulfill the plans of the very God whose existence they theoretically or practically deny. They will earn no merit for their unwilling cooperation, but nevertheless, willy nilly, they are agents under God’s command. They would wish to expel God from the universe he created, and from the minds of men. Their puny efforts not only will be in vain but, unknown to themselves, they are helping God in his overall plan for his world. God will still be master of his world when they are dead and long forgotten.

How foolish can we become! Because we know much more about the laws that govern our planet, there are men who say we can run it now without any help from any god. God was only an invention of the ages of ignorance, when man did not know the true nature of things! We do not need him now! Can any scientist, any really learned man, admit for a moment that these laws of nature which science has discovered, were made by blind chance? Does not a law need a lawmaker, one who has a purpose in view and decides how that purpose can best be achieved? The intricate, complicated laws that govern not only this earth and all that exists in it, but all of the wider universe which we have so far discovered, do these not demand not only a superior mind but a superhuman mind?

We have still much more to learn about the nature and purposes of created things. But even when we know all there is to know about our universe, we can only admit that we have found what was put in that universe by God. True science should lead to God, not away from him.

We Christians, thank God, are not depending on science or on the laws of nature to learn of God’s existence. We have his revelation. We know he is more than a legislator, a lawmaker; he is a loving Father who put us on earth and gave us all there is for our use. This is not the home he has prepared for us, it is only a place of transit. Let us use it, gratefully, to help us reach our eternal home. Unlike Cyrus and all those others who unwittingly and unwillingly cooperate with God, let us give him a cheerful, willing service. “God loves the cheerful giver.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 96: 1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Give the Lord glory and honor.

READING II

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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.

APPLICATION

We, today, have the self-same faith as the Thessalonians of the year 50 A.D. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to them to prove that the Christian faith which St. Paul taught them, was true, were given also for our sakes. We, like them, know that God is our loving Father, that Jesus Christ is his divine Son who became man in order to bring us to heaven. We know that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, is in the Christian Church today, helping its members, just as he was with the infant Church in St. Paul’s day. His presence may not be accompanied by as many external signs and charisms but it is no less powerful and active.

We have the same faith then, and the same true purpose in life as had the Thessalonians. But is that faith as sincere and as active as it was in the daily lives of those first Christians? If St. Paul were to write a letter to the assembly or congregation gathered here today, could he thank God for our “work of faith” our “labor of love” and our “steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”? Does our Christian faith influence and affect every action of each day, its work as well as its recreation, its difficulties as well as its pleasures? Or is it, as the Sunday missal was, something locked away in a bookcase, to be brought out on Sunday morning Is the keeping of the ten commandments and of the precepts of the Christian religion a “labor of love” or a load on our shoulders which if carried at all, is done so with reluctance? Is our hope in the future life which Jesus Christ won for us, and promised to us, the guiding star of our lives, the yardstick with which our earthly plans are measured and ruled?

These five verses from St. Paul’s first letter to the converts of Thessalonica are chosen by the Church today, not for us simply to admire such great faith, hope and charity in the first converts but that we would try to imitate them. What they did we too can do. What Christ expected of them, he expects of us too. What he promised them he is promising to us, but on condition that like them we live a life of faith, a life of hope and a life of charity.

GOSPEL

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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.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102217.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 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.”1 “We must obey God rather than men”:2
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.3

1 Mt 22:21.
2 Acts 5:29.
3 GS 74 # 5.

APPLICATION

Notwithstanding the malicious intention the Pharisees had in putting this question to our Lord, they did us all a good turn by getting his answer. That answer is forceful and final. It lays down a norm which solves for all time the problems that can arise from our dual citizenship on this earth.

God’s plan for man on earth was that he should live in the society of his fellowman. Society must be governed, there must be authority which will direct the actions of the component members toward the common good, which common good is principally, though not exclusively, the material welfare of the members as a whole. As his ultimate end, however, man has his spiritual welfare. This government, this temporal power to rule and direct the human groups or societies or states, comes, therefore, from God for it is his will that such societies should exist. The answer of our Lord explicitly restates this fundamental norm of the divine natural law. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”; the state authorities have a right to the obedience and cooperation in all things that tend to the material welfare of the state, provided always the spiritual welfare of the members is not impeded by the rulers’ demands.

As a partly spiritual being man is destined to be a Citizen of a spiritual eternal kingdom, and while on this earth he has the duty and the possibility of preparing himself for citizenship in that kingdom. And since this kingdom is of a higher and much more important nature, man’s primary aim in life must be to reach that kingdom. He must, in other words, find out and fulfill his duties toward God; he must “give to God what is God’s.”

This dual citizenship of man and the dual obligations that arise from it are the common knowledge of all from the natural law but are made more explicit still in divine revelation of which today’s answer, given by Christ to the Pharisees, is a precise and perfect resume. We have duties to God and duties to our country and the fulfillment of the latter is part of the fulfillment of the former. We Christians have no doubts as to our obligations under these two headings. We fulfill our duties to God by being faithful, loyal, active members of the spiritual kingdom, the Church, which Christ established on earth in order to lead us to our eternal kingdom. We fulfill our duties to our country by loyally obeying the just laws of the State, by paying all lawful taxes, and by contributing our share, whenever called on, toward the common good.

Both St. Peter (1 Pet. 2: 13-14) and St. Paul (Rom. 13 :1-7), stressed the obligation on the early Christians of being an example to all in their loyalty as citizens of the state. The same necessity obliges us too. We who know the divine, positive and natural law so much better than many others, must help to enlighten those others by our faithful observance of these laws. And our loyalty, too, will give the lie to those enemies of the faith who, in their ignorance and foolish opposition to things spiritual, are only too ready to think that loyalty to our Church and our God must of necessity make us disloyal to our country. History already has given the lie to such calumnies, for the loyal Christian has ever been the loyal citizen, but we must keep on writing such history in glaring lights of daily deeds, for there are, and there always will be, those enemies who cannot read history books.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Image of God

The human being is created in God’s image and likeness (Gn 1: 26-27). In the human being God enters into his creation; the human being is directly related to God. The human being is called by him. God’s words in the Old Testament are valid for every individual human being: “I call you by name and you are mine.” Each human being is known by God and loved by him. Each is willed by God, and each is God’s image. Precisely in this consists the deeper and greater unity of humankind – that each of us, each individual human being, realizes the one project of God and has his or her origin in the same creative idea of God. Hence the Bible says that whoever violates a human being violates God’s property (Gn (9: 5). Human life stands under God’s special protection, because each human being, however wretched or exalted he or she may be, however sick or suffering, however good-for-nothing or important, whether born or unborn, whether incurably ill or radiant with health – each one bears God’s breath in himself or herself, each one is God’s image. This is the deepest reason for the inviolability of human dignity, and upon it is founded ultimately every civilization. When the human person is no longer seen as standing under God’s protection and bearing God’s breath, then the human being begins to be viewed in utilitarian fashion. It is then that the barbarity appeared that tramples upon human dignity. And vice versa: When this is seen, then a high degree of spirituality and morality is plainly evident.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 139

O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar. You mark when I walk or lie down, all my ways lie open to you.

Before ever a word is on my tongue you know it. O Lord, through and through, Behind and before you besiege me, your hand ever laid upon me. Too wonderful for me, this knowledge, too high. Beyond my reach.

For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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