Is 45. 1-4,6; Ps 96; 1Th 1. 1-5b; Mt 22. 15-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Making Our Faith, Hope and Love More Concrete
Some things don’t change. Opponents become unlikely allies when circumstances suit them. Opponents even staunchly support each other. An opponent, more accurately, a conqueror of the Persian empire, where the Jews already had been in exile, became their liberator and God’s agent: For the sake of...my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.
Cyrus was in the right place at the right time. People did not underestimate the ramifications of that moment. None other than the Lord brought it about. God’s chosen servant, the entire people Israel, caught something we miss.
Greek was the language spoken in the ancient Mediterranean world. The Hebrew Scriptures had been translated into Greek so that God’s word could circulate far, and so more people could appreciate it. Lord in Greek is Kyrios (we know it in Kyrie eleison). Greek does not have a letter C, which means that Kyrus was their liberator’s name. That similarity deepened appreciation that the Lord worked through everyone--even a government leader, who didn’t acknowledge the only Lord.
Moving forward five centuries to Jesus’ time, the tension among Jews between being ruled by the Lord or by a man who considered him-self supreme--Caesar--had grown razor sharp. Members of two opposing groups allied themselves against Jesus. The Pharisees represented the Jewish people under Rome’s oppressive thumb. The Herodians, the party of Herod, sided with Rome in order to enjoy power. Herod was a heretic, who only wanted power. He had only the power Rome gave him, and Rome made him puppet-king of the Jews.
Malice made these enemies allies, specifically their hatred for Jesus. Their insincere question was not about taxes but about power, authority and allegiance. Jesus shrewdly asked for the coin used to pay the Roman tax. If a Pharisee had offered the coin, he’d have been a heretic for holding it. If a Herodian had offered the coin, the Pharisees would have been guilty for associating with Herod’s own; their association with them meant the Pharisees distanced themselves from the Lord, what they preached no one ought to do.
Because the issue is about recognizing God’s authority and about allegiance to God or denying God, these verses do not offer church-state solutions. The episode is about God’s loving control of history and our share as God’s stewards in each present moment. It's about recognizing God as the source of all; that all things are gifts.
October reminds us of two gifts from God: life and mission. This month deepens our awareness about life as given by God not by anyone else. October also calls each Catholic to participate in the church’s universal mission, namely, to make visible in more concrete ways our work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus.
Gesu offers one more way to do that by inaugurating the Gonzaga Society. Its mission complements other avenues of Christian service. Named after Jesuit St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who helped those in Rome no one else would help, the Gonzaga Society seeks to help people who “slip through the cracks” in our community. Members of the Gonzaga Society give people, who cannot drive, rides to church and to the doctor. They offer respite to those who are 24-7 caregivers at home. They sit with those who are dying, and they accompany survivors in their grief. Doing those things brings people nearer to Jesus. They are tributes of a priceless kind we offer as friends of Jesus.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow the Trinity’s creative love of you give you new awareness of your partnership with them. Ask St. Aloysius to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus about your partnership with him; how you champion life and the church’s mission. Desire strongly to practice in more concrete ways your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Those who say it regularly and with passion grow more united with our Creator and Redeemer, who empowers us with his Spirit to practice more concretely our faith, hope and love with and for others.
Wiki-image of the mausoleum of Cyrus is used freely by its author's permission. Wiki-image of Roman coins is used under the GFDL.