Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Homily - Cycle A - 2010-2011
by Fr. Luke Dundon

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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

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.  They sent their disciples to him with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status.  Tell us, then, what is your opinion:  Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?"  Knowing their malice, Jesus said, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  Show me the coin that pays the census tax."  Then they handed him the Roman coin.  He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?"  They replied, "Caesar's"  At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God"  When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away.

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.  So, what does belong to Caesar, what does belong to God?  Better read the labels…which I didn’t do during the Christmas time of 2nd Grade.  Seven years of age, with seven years worth of common sense…I had a great time purchasing gifts with my eight dollars at Santa’s Workshop at school, and proudly brought my presents home for wrapping.  An ice scraper for my dad, a little flip-address pad for my mother, a bouncy-ball for my sister (wrapped in lots of wrapping paper…she never forgave me for that….  So, the big day came…after opening Santa’s presents, my sister and I presented ours to everyone.  Such a joyful occasion, so much joy and excitement!  So much excitement, in fact, that I committed a slight error in the delivery of my presents.  My sister got the bouncy ball, my dad got the ice scraper…and, short-circuit of the brain and no labels on the presents, my dad also got the address book.  As I went back to get Mom’s present, I then realized that Dad was opening it instead.  Mom got a hug for Christmas.  Not so bad, though I thought better next time about labeling my presents, for it helps knowing which belongs to whom!

This was a sore issue for the Jews, who were oppressed by the Roman authorities that overtook their country and suddenly demanded taxes from them, money they really needed for themselves.  And so the overtook their country and suddenly demanded taxes from them, money they really needed for themselves.  And so the Pharisees use this to try to trap Jesus – tell us, Rabbi, do we have to pay these taxes to Caesar?  If He says yes, He’s supporting the oppressive Romans.  If He says no, then He is advocating rebellion.  And our infinitely wise Lord helps to clarify the issue for them – the coin bears Caesar’s label on it, give Caesar what is due to Caesar!

But then, Christ ends His comment with a twist…give to God what belongs to God.  What is God’s?  Whatever it is, it must be valuable!  God has no image on a coin…so what is owed to Him?  We offer His Church some money in the basket (and I thank you all for that, it supplies my coffee craving!), but what should we be giving Him?  What belongs to our Lord?

Isaiah helps us – the Lord has called you by your name, giving you a title (label)…even if you didn’t know Him!  He is the Lord, there is no other, it is He who arms you.  The Lord calls us by our name, He can name us, and why can He do that?  Listen to seven-year-old wisdom…Unlike my Christmas present catastrophe, I had my wits about me when I made my first lego boat.  Couldn’t  put labels on presents, but I could build a boat!  I carefully sculpted every corner, placed every cube in multi-color splendor, finalizing with a product that was genuinely my own, my own “creation,” in a sense.  And so I knew I could name it, U.S.S. Dondon, it was mine!  Similarly, the Lord who made all creation could name all creation, it was His.  As Genesis tells us, He spent the first five days creating things and naming things which He looked upon as “good.”  Once He had made man and named him on the 6th day, He looked upon what he had made and said that it was “very good,” and thus He could finally rest on the 7th day, His physical creation had been fulfilled.

That which belongs to God which is very good, is us!  We, body and soul, are a precious creation of God.  We are the intersection of physical and spiritual creation.  At the end of our lives, the only thing we will have to offer is just that, ourselves, body and soul.  That will be our gift to Him - we are already named by Him, we are His sons and daughters.  A boat reflects the boat-maker…a beautiful statue reflects the sculptor – we are images of the Divine Sculptor!  We are not images of simply earthly illusions on commercials or in the media.  The Image of the divine coin in us, and so we should care for the gift that we see in the mirror each morning, and anything we give to Caesar should be given in view of the priority and respect to the gift of tremendous value, the gift that belongs to God…and is each day returning to Him.

This weekend has been established by the Diocese as a Sunday for Formation in Christian Chastity, especially for our young people.  It’s good to have, for we are all called to chastity, whether we be single, religious, priest or married, because we are, each of us, gifts that will be offered to our Heavenly Father at the end of our lives, and we should treat this gift of our body and soul with dignity, and preserve the purity of this gift.  We respect and love what He has given us, both in how we treat ourselves and how we treat each other, for we are named by Him, and we find our true selves in Him…consequently, we will never want to allow anything to abuse or hurt our body or soul, for both are established for a specific purpose – to know, love and serve the Lord in this life, and be happy with Him forever in the next.  There are many distractions now, but at the end of our lives, we will clearly notice in ourselves this Divine Label, this God-like Image and Likeness.  He calls us to live this realization now, and when we do, we will be heroic reminders to ourselves and to others.  This will influence how we respect brothers and sisters, how we respect boyfriends and girlfriends, how we respect husbands and wives, how we respect ourselves!!!  Caesar can take his coins, the world can keep its presents, we have a present which is so much more valuable and incredible, both physical and spiritual…we have ourselves!  Keep the gift safe, because, once we give the Lord such a gift, we can only begin to imagine…what He will give to us in return…

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