Homily for October 19, 2014: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Msgr. Jim Miller

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 19, 2014

Reading 1 Is 45:1, 4-6

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10

R/ Give the Lord glory and honor.

Reading 2 1 Thes 1:1-5b

Gospel Mt 22:15-21

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This Sunday is Mission Sunday.   We are reminded of our mission to share our faith with others throughout the world.   I was blessed to go to Bolivia and share faith with the people there only to find them witnessing to me their faith and making my faith stronger!  I would like to share a few thoughts of Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978.  “It is appropriate first of all to emphasize the following point:  for the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one’s neighbor with limitless zeal.  As we said recently to a group of lay people, ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’  Saint Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the Word.  It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus—the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity.

In today’s gospel, the enemies of Jesus thought they really had Jesus in trouble this time.  The gospel tells us he was approached by Pharisees and Herodians.  These two groups were bitter enemies.  Israel was under Roman rule and the Herodians were totally loyal to Rome.  They would have immediately accused Jesus of promoting civil rebellion and revolution if he had said “don’t pay the taxes.”  The Pharisees, on the other hand, held that God alone was their king and Lord and they viewed the payment of taxes to Rome as caving in to the hated Roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar, a foreigner and a pagan at that!

Jesus is not fooled by the Pharisees and the Herodians’ shameful flattery.  These Jewish authorities miscalculate Jesus’ clear perception of himself and his mission.  Jesus’ answer puts things into perspective.  When God is truly the center of our lives, and we faithfully bear the image of Jesus in all we do, then there need be no separation between earthly and heavenly realms.  When God and God’s ways are sovereign in our lives, our choices about responsibilities and concerns in all the various realms in which we live—family, workplace, city, nation, world, church—are more clear.  Even when there is a clash of values, if we remain faithful to the image of Jesus we bear, then it is clear to others how we make our choices; how we serve; and how we tithe our time, talents, and treasure for the good of all.  The fundamental choice is ours to make:  to bear the image of Jesus at all times and in all places.

I sometimes wonder why Jesus came at the time in history that he did because if he came today he would have all of these modern means to communicate his message.   Then I think about the political ads and realize there would always be someone who would take Jesus’ message out context to distort the truth.   I encourage you to prepare yourselves to vote.   Do not vote for someone just because they are a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent.   Do not vote on just one issue but try to get the big picture of what each candidate represents.  Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.   Use your intelligence to make the best decision.   Next week there will be a handout that will help inform you of issues to consider.   It will not tell you how to vote but please do exercise your right to vote.   During Civil War time Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase, had the idea of printing “In God We Trust” on our coins and currency as a source of hope.   Electing the best candidates will also give us hope.