Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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  29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 19, 2008 Year: A
Is 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thess 1:1-5; Mt 22:15-21

Giving to God what belongs to Him

First Reading...
"Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him - and the gates shall not be closed;

For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other." [Is. 45:1, 4-6]

Second Reading...
"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 always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake." [1 Thess. 1:1-5]

Gospel Reading...
"When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard the parable, they realized that Jesus was speaking about them. Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, 'Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxed to the emperor, or not?'

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, 'Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.' And they brought him a denarius.

Then he said to them, 'Whose head is this, and whose title?' They answered, 'The emperor's.' Then he said to them, 'Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's and to God the things that are God's.'" [Mt. 22:15-21]

I was having a wonderful time at the sea shore. Certainly, I was enjoying the ceaseless waves beating the shore and the freshness of the surroundings just making me feel very happy and relaxed. Just at that moment, there comes a lad with a sad face asking for alms. As usual I put my hand into my pocket and wanted to give him any coin I could get at that moment. Well, lucky lad, got 5 rupees coin. He was ecstatic and he ran away. After about 10 minutes he appears again, in his hands 5 green bananas. He offered me one. I declined to take and said that all that for him. Well, he sat just there and started eating one after another. Then I saw him eating even the soft inside skin of the banana. I felt too sorry for him. I imagined this lad must have been hungry for more than a day.

Today giving has become difficult. We are living in a society that eats our income systematically. Go to malls and restaurants, and you come back empty. Whatever you take with you is not enough for yourself and your family. Difficult days are ahead as we have just witnessed the markets meltdown. Moreover, we have also heard families committing suicide, and people entering into depression.  

Then why Jesus says “give to God what belongs to God”? Of course the Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in a religious-state dispute over the issue of taxes. The Jews resented their foreign rulers and despised paying taxes to Cesar. They posed a dilemma to test Jesus to see if he would make a statement they could use against him. If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility with the Jewish populace who would regard him as a coward and a friend of Cesar. If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political trouble-maker and have him arrested. Jesus avoided their trap by confronting them with the image of a coin. Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power. Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them. In a certain sense the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler. Where the coin was valid the ruler held political sway over the people. Since the Jews used the Roman currency, Jesus explained that what belonged to Caesar must be given to Caesar. This story has another deeper meaning as well. We, too, have been stamped with God’s image since we are created in his own likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). We rightfully belong, not to ourselves, but to God who created us and redeemed us in the precious blood of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Paul the Apostle says that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). 

Give to God what belongs to God." -- We should first give back to God our own selves upon which God's image is engraved. We don't bring back to God "what belongs to God" in a human being. Jesus went to the cross to do that. "Give to God what belongs to God" does not mean just lip service. Jesus spoke with the full realization that he was casting his life away so that humankind in sin would be pardoned for sin and handed over into God's hands as His. In order to bring that about, he had the conviction to pay the sacrifice himself. He had the full intention to pay the full price. In fact, the Lord did pay the price. With his own life! Therefore, the Bible says it like this to us, "You are bought with a price." This is how it is written, "You are brought with a price. Therefore, show forth the glory of God by means of your bodies," (I Cor 6:20).

We will listen to this message spoken to the Jews and the people who have been bought with a price. "Give to God what belongs to God." Therefore, what we ought to do is to be God's own people by [his] grace and to offer ourselves up to God. First, we offer to God our bodies "as a holy living sacrifice for God's pleasure," (Romans 12:1). That's [true] worship from us [to Him].

Everything we have comes from God. Naked I came and naked shall I return, blessed be the name of God.

  Click here for other Sunday Homilies 

A New book from Fr. Rudy.

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Dear friend, my homilies will be posted on Thursdays and you can benefit them and if you need more resources, you could contact me on rudyocd@yahoo.com or rudyocd@gmail.com

Let us make this ministry fruitful one so that the Word of God becomes a source of joy for me and for you and help people become more aware of its riches. You are also welcome to share your feedback with me. Thanks and God bless. 

 

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