29th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Scripture Reading          

Matthew 22: 15-21

The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’ They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

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Reflection

Behind Jesus’ back, his enemies prepared a dangerous trap for him. The trap is well thought out: “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” If he answers negatively, they will be able to accuse him of rebellion against Rome. If he justifies the payment of tribute, he will end up discredited by those poor farmers who are oppressed by those taxes, those he loves and defends with his whole might. Jesus’ answer has been summarised throughout the centuries in these terms: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Few of Jesus’ words have been cited as much as these. But they are often distorted and manipulated by interests very far from those of the speaker himself, the great defender of the poor.

Jesus isn’t thinking of God and of the Roman Caesar as two powers that can demand, each in their respective spheres, dominance over their subjects. Like any faithful Jew, Jesus knows that to God alone belongs the earth and all that it contains, the world and all its inhabitants (Ps. 24). What could belong to Caesar that doesn’t come from God? Aren’t all the subjects of the empire also sons and daughters of God?

Jesus doesn’t discuss the different positions held by various groups in that society about taxes paid to Rome and their significance: if they are carrying the money of the taxing-master in their pockets, then they should fulfil those obligations. Instead he reminds them of something that no one has asked him about: “Give to God what belongs to God.” That’s to say, don’t give to Caesar what belongs only to God: the life of God’s sons and daughters. As he has repeated over and over to his followers: the poor are God’s special ones, God’s Reign belongs to them. No one should abuse them.

We must not sacrifice people’s life, dignity or happiness to any power. And surely today no power sacrifices more lives and causes more suffering, hunger and destruction than that tyranny of a faceless economy without a truly human purpose that, according to Pope Francis, the powerful of the earth have succeeded in imposing. We can’t remain passive and indifferent to this, stifling the voice of our consciences even while practicing the rituals of religion.

Fr José Antonio Pagola

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Prayer

Let us pray for the many refugees driven from Myanmar, more than half of whom are children, worn down and traumatised. May the nations of the world wake up to the tragedy unfolding before them, and reach out to the thousands who are terrified, hungry and sick.
Lord, in your mercy.                R. Hear our prayer.

For missionaries working all over the world. May our prayers and offerings help to protect and sustain them and the people they serve, so that all may come to know the Good News of Jesus.
Lord, in your mercy.                R. Hear our prayer.

For ourselves and all who follow Jesus. May the Holy Spirit help us to show our faith in action, work for love and persevere through hope.
Lord, in your mercy.                R. Hear our prayer.


28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Scripture Reading

Matthew 22: 1-14

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

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Reflection

The parables say something to us on many levels. They tell us something about ourselves and about God; they also reflect realities of the world around us and the culture we live in. In today’s parable, we find out something about the inclusiveness of God’s invitation to live with him always, now and into eternity.

People are invited to the banquet of God; some come, some do not. The story goes further that everyone at the crossroads was invited. In the culture of the time, the crossroads was where people of all backgrounds gathered. The invitation to those at the crossroads is the invitation to all God’s people.

It is also the invitation to each of us at crossroads in our own life. Whenever we are in crisis, in trouble, stuck at a crossroads to make a decision, God is nearby, part of our life’s process, offering the good things of a banquet.

As we look around in our lives, we can realise that all of us are invited. The danger of all religion is to narrow it down to ‘people of our own faith’. The people of God is the whole human race; the call is to sit down with God and be prepared  to meet anyone with him.

Fr Donal Neary SJ is editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger

Prayer

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

Psalm 22 (23)


27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Scripture Reading     (Matthew 21: 33-43)

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.’

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Reflection

A common image for Jesus is the garden or the vineyard, with comments on wasteland and fruitful land. In this story he looks at stones and points out that a rejected stone, if looked at again, could become the cornerstone of a building. He is referring to prophets who were rejected, and to himself. He would be through his weakness and death, the essential stone of the new temple, the energy through death of the new community.

We live in a throwaway culture. Much of what could be used again is dumped to destroy the earth and the sea. We waste a lot of the daily bread of the people. Jesus asks us always to look again, to see the value of what we may throw aside, especially in our treatment of each other.

Everyone has a value in the eyes of God. Pope Francis noted: ‘When adolescents feel unloved, they may turn to violence, hatred or delinquent behaviour. There is no such thing as bad children or evil adolescents, but there are unhappy people’ (June 2107). He is asserting that with love and a community of acceptance, everyone has a place and has something to offer, like every stone is valuable to a new building, especially some we may first throw away.

I thank you, Lord, for the wonder of my being.

Fr Donal Neary SJ  (Editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger)

Prayer 

May the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God
and of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.

(cf. Philippians 4:7)

UPDATE
See Gallery (under ‘Information’) for pictures from the Blessing of Animals