29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our daughters were born six years apart. As little girls, they played well together. When the oldest entered middle school, their relationship changed, and frequent bickering was heard – the oldest was loud and emotional, and the youngest was quiet and sneaky. When they would come to us united, we knew they were attempting to set a trap. As parents, we learned early on that the girls would never know, even when we disagreed. We, too, were a united front.
In the gospel, two unlikely groups appear to be united with the intention of trapping Jesus. The Pharisees, a Jewish lay group, and the Herodians, supporters of Herod the Great, did not agree on anything, especially a tax to Caesar. To even carry a coin with the image of Caesar was against their beliefs, yet when asked by Jesus to present one, the Pharisees pulled one out, losing all credibility. Whose image is this, and whose inscription? Caesars was the reply. Avoiding the trap, Jesus instructs them to repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
What does it mean to give to God what belongs to God? In the first reading, we have another unlikely character, Cyrus, King of Persia, a non-believer God chose to lead the Israelites from Babylon. Isaiah is teaching about the authority of God to rule throughout history and Cyrus’s ability to conquer Babylon because God is with him.
The second reading from Paul is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for his love of the Thessalonians’, a people chosen by God. He is also thankful to God for how the Thessalonians responded by giving themselves to Jesus.
We are chosen by God. Like Saint Eymard, who, with his gift of self, do we give to God what belongs to God?
So let us set out once more, illumined by our encounter with the risen Lord and prompted by his Spirit. Let us set out again with burning hearts, with our eyes open and our feet in motion. Let us set out to make other hearts burn with the word of God, to open the eyes of others to Jesus in the Eucharist, and to invite everyone to walk together on the path of peace and salvation that God, in Christ, has bestowed upon all humanity. Pope Francis