Twenty-nineth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Scripture Soundings
First Reading: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21
We learn of God's greatness in Isaiah. Not only did God create us and know us intimately, but God is so awesomely wondrous that God's glory surpasses any treasures we know. All the greatness we know in this world, whether it be wealth, power, or fame, could only be accomplished through God's authority.
For this reason, Paul tells the Thessalonians that God has created them for great things and that God has the power to transform their lives. The Thessalonians, at the time of their conversion, worshiped the one God rather than the many idols they had worshiped previously.
Matthew's Gospel distinguishes worship of God from paying homage to anyone else. When Jesus was about to be tricked by the Pharisees, kind but clear words came to him. The Pharisees were able to answer their own questions as Jesus led them through an exercise in logical deduction. He asked to see a coin used for paying taxes.
The coin had an impression of Caesar's head and title. The Pharisees understood that taxes were to be paid to Caesar, and Jesus agreed. He added, however, that what belonged to God, namely glory, should be given only to God. The two payments were not to be confused.
Separation of church and state can get messy. The people directly and indirectly responsible for settling our country were Godly men and women. Our coins have imprints of great leaders, but the lettering reminds us that it is "In God we trust." The Pharisees thought singularly about taxes, but when we look at our coin, isn't it evident that we see God in all facets of our lives, especially the governing of God's people? As it was in the days of Caesar, God is the ruler over all people; and if authority were not given by God, rulers of any era would have no power.
Things were not perfect for the settlers of our country; they made mistakes, too; but the basis of any government should be the well-being of the nation's people. God is concerned for our well-being, too.
When we see a conflict in what political leaders strive to do and what we know God wants us to do, we must follow the higher power. This creates conflict within and possibly between ourselves and those with whom we associate, but it is the conflict that calls us to action.
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Updated: May 11, 2008