• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

"Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 17(16):6, 8 – “To You I call; for You will surely heed me, O God; turn Your ear to me; hear my words. Guard me as the apple of Your eye; in the shadow of Your wings protect me.”

First Reading: Is 45:1, 4-6 “I have grasped the right hand of Cyrus to subdue the nations before him.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10 – “Give the Lord glory and honor.”

Second Reading: 1 Thes 1:1-5b – “Calling to mind faith, love, and hope.”

Alleluia: Phil 2:15d, 16a “Alleluia, alleluia. Shine like lights in the world as you hold on to the word of life. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mt 22:15-21 – “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 33(32):18-19 – “Behold, the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, who hope in His merciful love, to rescue their souls from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”

In the 17th century, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, a doctor of the church, wrote:

“We are made in the image and likeness of God. So you, O Christian, because you are a human being ... are God’s tribute money … a little coin bearing the image and likeness of the Divine Emperor. Therefore, with Christ I ask, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’

Your answer is, 'God’s,'

to which I reply,Then why not give God what belongs to Him?’

We bear the imprint of Your glorious face, O Lord.

Many a sage has told us at one time or another that we shouldn’t mix politics and religion. Some have incorrectly defended the separation of church and state by quoting the words of Christ in today’s Gospel. And if you buy into that interpretation, you, too, would be incorrect. (Not that church and state shouldn’t be separate ... but I’m not sure that was the intention of our founding fathers, considering how God is invoked directly and indirectly in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.)

So first, allow me to offer a bit of trivia or background behind today’s Gospel … It is difficult to overstate how unfair the Roman tax was way back when. This Gospel scene was a tough one for all involved. It enraged the Jews to have to pay to occupy the land promised to them by God.

So what belongs to man and what ultimately belongs to God? Well, I believe that’s a no-brainer. All of Creation, including us, are a result of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All things, ultimately, are God’s.

George was a stamp collector. He spent years on his hobby, proud of both the rarity and the completeness of his collection. One day George died and his precious stamp collection was no longer his.

Colin was a comic book collector. As a single surgeon, he spent over twenty grand a year on comic books. He even had a mint copy of Detective Comics number 27, the very first appearance of Batman! One day Colin died. The huge comic book collection was no longer his.

Tim was a freelance writer and high school religion teacher. He had an extensive library of theology books that assisted him greatly in his work. One day his four children jested to their father, “What a massive garage sale these are going to make!”

Joseph had a huge vinyl album collection and no one but no one was allowed to touch them or the state-of-the-art stereo system he had. When he passed away, who would take care of that precious collection and that priceless stereo?

This week, the Church will celebrate saints who knew the truth of the temporariness of things … even their earthly bodies. Our week is filled with martyrs, some of whom died gruesome and grizzly deaths, and others who knew the temporariness of things, even themselves, which they offered for the glory of God.

Today, if it weren’t Sunday, we’d be celebrating Saint Luke, who not only gave us a Gospel and Acts of the Apostles, but spilled his blood for Christ.

On October 19th … tomorrow ... we celebrate eight who gave it all to God and who bear the palm branch of victory and martyrdom: Jesuits, Saint Jean de Brebeuf and Saint Isaac Jogues, and their companions ... Rene Goupil, John Lalande, Anthony Daniel, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, and Noel Chabanel ... the North American Martyrs. These individuals knew well that all things were God’s.

On Tuesday, October 20th, we celebrate Saint Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists. On Friday, October 23rd, we remember Saint John of Capistrano and on Saturday, October 24th, Saint Anthony Mary Claret.

There is so much richness in our liturgical year, reminding us that we are part of the vast Communion of Saints … we are part of something eternal and something that celebrates that they belong to God, as does everything and everyone.

Pope Saint John XXIII, would jest after the dreadful cancer hit him, “My bags are always packed.” He knew that his pontificate would be short and that his time on earth, like ours, is temporary. This is true for pauper and for pope alike.

And please don’t forget that we celebrate a great man who was Pope and is now Saint … Pope Saint John Paul II on Thursday, October 22nd. We thank God this week and always for the many awesome reminders of His presence in our lives.

Today, however, we reflect on what it means to give to Caesar what is due Caesar and give to God what is due God. So I’ll throw out the same term I threw at you last week. Stewardship. And I’ll ask again ... how do we give back to God?

As we heard last week, Stewardship is the name given to what a disciple of Christ does to respond to the second part of that question or challenge ... how do render unto God what is due God? Saint Paul calls the gifts and talents we all possess “charismata," which mean gifts given by God for the service of the Community … in other words … for the service of Christ’s Body.

In his First Letter to the Corinthians Saint Paul says: “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Please notice the Trinitarian form of the sentence: Spirit, Lord, God. By our talents, we are endowed by the Holy Trinity … to say it another way, we are related to the Holy Trinity … and we continue the work of creation done by the Holy Trinity. Use the talents you have to give back to God in gratitude for all He has given you.

Great spiritual masters throughout salvation history have known the truth that nothing is really ours. A prayer of Saint Ignatius Loyola captures the heart of today’s Liturgy of the Word and the truth that all Christians must ultimately surrender everything to our God: “Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my talents, my abilities, my entire will. Give me only Your love and Your grace. That’s enough for me … Your love and Your grace are enough for me."

When we ask for God’s love and grace, I can think of no greater Source than the Body and Blood of Christ that will be consumed from this altar in just a little while. Having said all that, we return to the question each of us should consider today and every day ... how and what do you give back to God in return for all that He has given you?

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