Theme: THE POWER OF GOD TO SAVE AND THE POWER GOD GIVES US TO SAVE!
- Isaiah 45:1. 4-6
- Psalm 95 (96): 1. 3-5. 7-10. R. v. 7
- Matthew 22:15-21
Today is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, or 29th Sunday of the Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us of the power of God to save and the power God gives us to save!
The first reading from Isaiah tells us of King Cyrus who defeated the Babylonians and let the exiled Jews in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple!
King Cyrus of Persia (Iran) was the most powerful king of his time (6th century BC)! He defeated the Babylonians who defeated the Jews and exiled them into Babylon in the 6th century BC!
But most importantly, the first reading tells us that God is even more powerful than the most powerful king on earth! In fact King Cyrus was only an instrument of God to free the Jews from Babylon! And King Cyrus himself did not even know that he was only an instrument of God to free the Jews from Babylon! Such is the power of God!
That is why in the response of the responsorial psalm we sang and prayed: “Give the Lord glory and power”!
That is why in the first and second stanzas of the responsorial psalm (Ps 95:1. 3-5) the Israelites tell the glory of God to all the nations, so that all the nations will praise the God of Israel!
That is why in the third and fourth stanzas of the responsorial psalm (Ps 95:7-10) all the nations of the earth are called to worship the God of Israel!
All in all, all the nations of the earth are to “praise and worship” the God of Israel!
And if we are to read today’s psalm to the end, that is, up to verses 11 to 13, we find that even creation acknowledges and praises God! The heavens, that is, the stars, the Sun, the Moon, the planets, including planet earth are to praise God! Even the seas and the fishes in the sea, and the trees, etc. praise God! (CSB/NAB/NJBC)
The gospel today tells us of the power of God in Jesus Christ! When the Pharisees and the Herodians asked Jesus if taxes should be paid to Caesar or not, Jesus answered: “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God”! (Mt 22:21)
Like King Cyrus, Caesar was the most powerful emperor of his time, but again, God is even more powerful than the most powerful emperor! Thus, ‘give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’ and more and most importantly, ‘give back to God what belongs to God’!
What belongs to Caesar? Taxes! What belongs to God? Good Deeds! Two Sunday ago our gospel reading was on the “parable of the wicked tenants” of the vineyard (Mt 21: 33-43) and the point of the parable was in verses 41 and 43, that is, to produce fruits of good deeds! (CSB/NAB)
The gospel today takes up the same point of good deeds! (CSB/NAB) Give back to God what belongs to God! Give back to the good God what is due to him, that is, good deeds! And indeed the early Christians did good deeds and by the year 315, the whole Roman Empire, including the emperor himself was converted to Christianity, and basilicas (royal halls) were given to the Christians to be used as churches!
Today we may criticize and complain that governments are corrupted and unjust, nations are corrupted and unjust, and with globalization, the whole world is corrupted and unjust; but if we continue to do the good deeds that the early Christians did and changed the world of their time, we will also change the world of our time!
Today in this Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the Risen Lord will give us his Holy Spirit, and it is in the power of the Holy Spirit that we do good deeds and change the world! This is the Good News!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.