Thursday, October 16, 2014
"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar"
This Sunday - October 19, 2014 - in Matthew's Gospel, the Pharisees try once again to entrap Jesus in His speech. They ask Jesus the question, "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.
The Hypocrisy of the Question
Jesus is fully aware of the hypocrisy of His opponents, and He does get the better of them. ut He does so with the simple truth. If Jesus supported paying tribute to Caesar, He would be discredited as a prophet. If however, He argued against paying this tax, it could be used later to portray him to the Romans as a dangerous revolutionary. Jesus' answer avoids taking sides in the question of the lawfulness of the tax. The answer took them by surprise and they went away and left him alone
They set a trap for Jesus, but fell into their own trap. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S says that Jesus teaches us a dear lesson. When we adhere assiduously to the Word of God and to our Lord, in true repentance, the traps which others set for us will become their undoing rather than ours.
Service to Caesar
Are service to God and to Caesar compatible? The Lord commands not only to give to God what is God's (that is, everything), but also to give to Caesar what is Caesar's. Jesus’ response tells us that one’s citizenship does not have to be at odds with one’s faith. It is St. Paul who reminds us that the moment a person comes into contact with the currency of the country of which he is a citizen, he thereby acknowledges that he is obligated to pay for the support of that government, to obey its laws, to render that government obedience, fear and honor, in fact he is obligated to pray for that government (1 Timothy 2:2).
When government seeks to provide for the just welfare of its citizens, it is doing the work of God. We are to live completely the requirements of justice and peace in social relationships, and to work for the common good. As patriotic Americans, we need to participate in the affairs of our government responsibly and intelligently so that our public policies may reflect the wisdom and justice of God. Patriotism as a virtue means keeping the proper order of Christian priorities.
Father Cusick tells us how we have in our own day an abundance of conflicts between Church and state. Is a matter political or religious? If it's deemed political, many believe, the Church should have nothing to say. The old expression “My country right or wrong but my country,” is not valid for the Christian when that means participating in immoral acts. For example, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino illustrates, the Christian would be wrong to support and fight for abortion simply because abortion is a law of our country.
The Christian would also be wrong if he or she does not fight for just and moral laws. Whether opposing the culture of death or any tyranny of the political order, the Christian gives first allegiance to the laws of God. As Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez says in his reflection on Respect Life Month, “This is who we are as Catholics.”
Just this week, our bishops alerted us to encroachments on the Church's legitimate autonomy. Fargo Bishop Samuel J. Aquila this week also predicted that government authorities may one day attempt to silence the Catholic Church in the United States. “We are in a very real clash," he said while warning that these encroachments could result in an erosion of freedom of religion in our country.
Fr. Phil Bloom says the US bishops are asking us to respond by putting God first. Our consciences belong to Him. The bishops' role is to teach, govern and sanctify. This business of applying moral norms to political activity in order to help form Catholic consciences falls under their teaching umbrella. This is covered in last week's re-release of the USCCB document "Faithful Citizenship." The point they are making is the truth. It is not, mind this carefully please, it is not to present just enough truth to an electorate in order to influence their vote toward one candidate over another. It is so that we Catholics can profess to the truth in faith and morals.
Giving to God what is God
If the image of Caesar was stamped on Roman coins that were to be rendered to him, the human heart bears the imprint of the Creator, the one Lord of our life. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says God has marked us for his own and sent us on mission to the world. It means God put you and me into the world to sanctify it, to befriend the things of Caesar. And, Fr. John Foley, S. J. points out, we are to work in the world of sin - in spite of our own sins. Do our human projects make us better prophets, servants and agents of the Kingdom of Jesus?
And increasingly, Fr. Alex McAllister, SDS adds, we who believe are going to be put on the spot and asked to explain our beliefs to those who have absolute no prior knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. If we look around, Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us, we see many of our friends who are pagans.They do not know that spirituality comes not from within ourselves but is a direct gift from God. Let us never be ashamed of working publicly for Jesus' kingdom, and telling people about Him.
Greed and Wealth
Protests and debates about the state of our economy banner our news headlines. Father Longenecker clarifies that he is a priest and not an economist. But it doesn't stop him from voicing this thoughts. He opines that the economic disaster we are now facing is the fault of individuals--not governments. Put very simply, individual people are lazy, greedy, thieves. He says this applies to politicians, bankers, stock brokers, financiers, CEOs of multi national companies and it also applies the underclass--the homeless, the indigent and the destitute--and everyone in between.
Rev. James V. Schall, S.J. adds to the discussion when he points out that the New Testament isn’t a textbook in economics or politics. The New Testament is interested in the poor. But it is also interested in rich young men who are asked to give their wealth to the poor and to follow Christ. While By Father John Flynn, LC adds another dimension to the mounting problems we face. Fewer children and diminishing numbers of married couples will have a significant impact on economic growth and the ability of governments to finance welfare programs.
Prayer, Spirituality & Eucharistic Adoration
In the face of all the disheartening worldwide economic news we see daily, Pope Benedict XVI urges the faithful not to give in to pessimism, adding, "Do not be afraid to live and give witness of the faith!"
Patrick Madrid reflects on his observation that over the last 25 years or so, he has noticed with bemusement an unfortunate trend in the United States in which an increasing number of lay people arrogate to themselves the title of “spiritual director.” He regard this as unfortunate because, except in certain rare exceptions, he thinks lay people are simply not qualified or competent to serve as spiritual directors. So he offers some thoughts on the important qualities to look for in a spiritual director.
And refelecting on the many causes of our spiritual estrangement, JonMarc Grodi discusses the fears that often cause people to hold tight to their lukewarmness about really pursuing God. He says it is there, alone in Eucharistic adoration, when this perilous question really comes to bear, “Are you there God?”
Teens, Facebook & God's Messengers
Simcha Fisher shares a few strategies for encouraging your husband to be a little more chatty. Her "How To Get Your Husband To Talk To You" teaches wives how to have an awful but necessary conversation.
Carmelite Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D. talks about her grief and mourning over the recent death of another Carmelite sister she worked with closely. And just as she was at her wit's end, God sent her a messenger who arrived unexpectedly to console her - of all places on aisle 3 of the local Staples store!
Here's another unexpected messenger from God. And she comes to you on Facebook! "Poolesville Compliments" is an anonymous teen Facebook "friend" who has been taking to heart the pope’s challenge to use social media to make Christ’s presence felt. A great evangelization story of teens who are using Facebook for good.
Finally, what’s in a nickname? The many football fans among you will love this. Here are the stories behind the nicknames of the NFL’s 32 teams—and what they were almost called.
Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: What role does conscience play in our Christian lives?
FEATURED BLOG: The Bishops are Guilty of Being Honest
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus nos muestra como ser honestos
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