Homily (Reflection) for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year (A) (22nd October, 2017) on the GospelIs 45:1.4-6;
Ps 95:1.3-5.7-10. (R.v.7);
There is a story in Father Gerard Fuller’s book, Stories for all seasons about John Wesley’s three-point sermon. During this sermon, his first point was “Get all you can.” To this, an old rich miser said, “Amen.” Next Wesley said, “Keep all you can.” Again, the miser said, “Amen.” Then the preacher said, “Give all you can.” And the selfish man said, “What a shame to spoil a good sermon”.
Topic: Giving to Emperor what is Emperor’s.
As I reflect on today’s gospel, Jesus’ reply to the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians who were sent to entrap him: “… Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21) reminds me of lots of things people who belong to different Christian denominations do. Hence, I consider this reply a good material for our Christian reflection.
Some of the actions people try to justify with this reply are quite contrary to the will of God. We shall consider some of these from two perspectives – seeing Christianity as opposing whatever the civil authority decrees whether good or bad and secondly, the syncretistic practices among Christians today.
For many Christians today, one of the major characteristics of Christians is opposing everything other than what his/her church says no matter how stupid. To engage in whatever others who are not members of the same church do is sinful and as such should not be condoned. This has increased the disunity in the world and continues to impoverish many communities. Some Christians fulfil their civic responsibilities only when there is no escape route. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad…. do what is good, and you will receive approval (Rom. 13: 1-3).
Going further we read,
For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them – taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due (Rom 13: 6-7).
And for some Christians, giving to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s is a licence to syncretistic practices. Hence you see one person consulting both his/her priest (pastor) and a diviner, booking Masses and at the same time offering sacrifices to different deities, and so on. According to people of this kind, consulting the priest, booking Masses and other religious activities are giving to God whereas consulting the diviners, offering to the idols and other fetish activities symbolize giving to emperor. Considering how rampant such practices are today, it is important to find out what God wants from his children? In his first letter to the Corinthians Saint Paul writes:
No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (1Cor 10:20-21).
Furthermore in his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul also writes:
Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God (2Cor 6:14-16).
Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him,’ but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, ‘I abide in him,’ ought to walk just as he walked (1Jn 2: 4-6).
God wants us to be faithful to Him and to the society without involving in any syncretistic activities. Every child of God has responsibilities towards God as well as the society. Again, if one is living outside his biological community, he/she is called to remember God, place of his/her birth, and the place he/she is living, cf. Jer 29:7. It is wrong to be disrespectful to the constituted authorities under the pretext of being a Christian or even a church leader. This reminds me of a priest who yelled at the policeman who asked him for his vehicle particulars and driver’s licence: “Don’t you know that I am a priest? Can’t you see?” That is not what God wants. We must fulfil our obligations to whoever we owe them. Hence, for Henry Templeton, “Christianity does not remove you from the world and its problems; it makes you fit to live in it, triumphantly and usefully.”
Bible Reading: Rom 13:1-7; 1Jn 2:1-17; 1Cor 10:1-32; 2Cor 6:14-7:1.
Thought for today: To what extent do you fulfil your obligations to both the Church and the society? As you consider this, these questions might be useful: Have you been useful to your community? Have you paid your tax? When did you renew your vehicle particulars last? Do you drive/ride with a licence? What have you contributed to the church? Do you pay your tithe? And so on.
Let us pray: God, give us all the graces necessary to be faithful to you and to the civil authorities as you want us to be without being syncretistic – Amen.
You are free to share this reflection with others if you consider it worthy.
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