Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

In today’s reading, Jesus continues to be hounded by the Pharisees who are trying to discredit him or trip him up. Today they set a trap for Jesus by trying to get him to say something that would alienate Jesus from some of the people, depending on which side he took on the issue. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the two main parts of the religious establishment during Jesus’ time. The Pharisees focused on the Bible and the requirements that it established for everyone while the Sadducees were more interested in ritual and ceremony. The two groups plotted together, however, to trick Jesus. The Herodians mentioned here were a political party, not religious. The religious establishment did not want to support Rome, but the political establishment did. Jesus’ answer then would alienate one of the two groups. They would do anything it  seems to discredit Jesus.

Jesus, of course, understands that this is exactly what they are trying to do and will have none of it.  The tone of his speech in the original actually indicates his disgust with them – and we translate that as – you  hypocrites! – but it is much more sarcastic than that.

Jesus’ answer simply indicates that there are two realms – the worldly and the spiritual. We are in the world and so, bound by the rules of the world, but we are spiritual and so are bound by the Laws of God as well. We need to pay service to both.

In the early Church the letters of Paul show that Paul was very careful to tell the new Christians to live as good citizens. He, too, saw the need to live in the world as it was, and not be put into a situation where they could be criticized and look bad.

What has bothered me in thinking about these readings is when there might be a clash between the rules of the nation and the rules of God. Because of our democratic process we can vote to follow our beliefs, but since we know God’s ways are not our ways, the vote doesn’t always go the way of God. Issues of abortion, birth control, gay marriage are recent issues, but slavery and war have been other issues that have often seemed to collide with Christian values. Who is right? Separation of church and state is not always possible.

With some issues, like slavery, the political process seemed to be ahead of the church on this issue, and it was church theology that changed as a result. Few of us would look at slavery in the Bible today and see it as God approved, though it had been interpreted that way.

Other good questions might revolve around whether Christians have a duty to force their ethics and morality on the majority of Americans. We must follow the laws of our country and render unto Caesar, but we can work to change people’s minds on issues or show a better way by our example. Or perhaps the democratic will is just and the theological interpretations may change. Whatever the case, I am not sure it is always simple, as Jesus’ answer might indicate. Or perhaps it is. Perhaps we are to follow the laws of the country, and live our own lives according to God’s law, not judging others on their different values or ideas. All interesting material for discussion and thought this week.

The reading from Isaiah this week is more difficult to find a thematic connection with Jesus’ teaching except that we see God’s effort at appointing rulers who will bring things in line with his will. Cyrus was a Persian ruler and was not Jewish, yet God was able to use him to widen people’s understanding of the one, true God and to bring glory to himself and the Hebrew people.

Perhaps God also uses leaders to help us understand the modifications in theology that we might be ready for. Abraham Lincoln changed a lot of people’s minds about slavery and his strong belief eventually paid of both in American life and eventually in our theological understanding. God works in many ways – ‘there is none besides him and there is no other’ as Isaiah says.

This week let us not be afraid to challenge some of our beliefs that may not align with social values of the world. Let us examine Scripture and hear God talking to us for the Scriptures are for every age and all time. And know that whether we are rendering unto Caesar or unto God, that all things will someday be one and God shall reign – that is our Christian hope and our Christian belief.

And that is the Good News we can take refuge in when we are troubled by the world around us.

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]


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