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Pastor's Letter 20231022 - 22 October 2023 - The God of History

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October 22nd, 2023

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time


A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:

“The God of History”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

(Isaiah 45:1-6)  The return of the people from exile in Babylon, made possible by King Cyrus, the Mede, who is seen as a sign of Yahweh’s power over His people, Israel, with Lordship over all peoples.

In Cyrus’ benevolence, Israel saw the hand of Yahweh at work.  The prophet looked upon this not merely as a foreign policy, but also the Lord’s fidelity to the covenant, shaping the course of world events.


(1 Thessalonians 1:1-5)  Paul tells the Thessalonians that Scripture can be a great teacher, if one can listen without manipulation or selectivity.  

Paul saw Thessalonika, the most important city in the Roman province, as a strategic locale for the spread of the faith in Macedonia.  He praised the young community for its excellent response to the Good News, singling out their faith, hope and love.  


(Matthew 22:15-21)  We hear the story of Jesus’ enemies attempting to trap Him into incriminating Himself.  

Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and the Herodians cut through their hypocrisy and political differences to the very heart of the matter.  Refraining from taking one side or the other as regards taxes, His answer indicated that each party was erroneously bound up in irrelevancies to the extent that each had missed the essential point—concern for God.  What was due Him, should have been as important as a concern about taxes.  

Dual Citizenship

The question put to Jesus, in today’s Gospel, was a test to determine He would put Himself on the side of those who opposed paying taxes to the Romans (the Pharisees;) or, on the side of those who collaborated with them (the Herodians.)  

In His answer, Jesus implied that the State has a role, with just, limited power, as long as it does not supplant God.  From this principle, Christians deduced they could accommodate loyalty to the State, but the particulars are left to the individual to deduce with their conscience.  

Many people enjoy “dual citizenship,”—enjoying the privileges of two countries.  Similarly, all Christians have “dual citizenship,”—one in the nation in which they live, but also one in the Kingdom of God. 

We owe allegiance to our country for its many benefits:  forces of law and order, which permit a life of peace and security, and national defense; to public services, for transport, water, light, etc.  We also are privileged in that we are provided basic education, access to medical care, unemployment benefits and so forth.  

All these benefits mean we have an obligation to the State.  A legitimate State has rights, and Christians must respect them, their laws and their rulers.  We must be responsible citizens, to the best of our ability, and play our part in making the country a good place for all citizens.  Failure to be a good citizen is a failure in Christian duty.  To cheat the State is to cheat one’s fellow citizens, and if we do so, we cheat God.  

As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we proclaim our belief in God, and pledge to obey His commandments, thereby, taking upon ourselves the obligation of being emissaries of truth to the world.

In many cases, the two “citizenships” do not clash.  But sometimes, they may…but when they do, Christians know spontaneously which obligation comes first—the truth.  

However, it may not always be that simple.  What Jesus gave us was only a “principle.”  He didn’t give a detailed theory of political science, nor a blueprint for Church-State relations.  People must work out the implications of that for themselves.  In practice, it isn’t always easy to say, “This is for Caesar,” and “That is for God.”  Life is a unity.  It can’t be split into two clearly defined parts—secular and religious.  

Many times, Christians “opt out” of the affairs of the world, leaving often dangerous, daring and responsible things such as politics, law-making and business to others.  But when we do, we are delegating these things to people who may not be motivated by Christian values and principles to act on our behalf.  That makes our selection of representatives even more significant.  It’s not easy to determine the character of an individual by their “platform,” and public persona.  

So, Christians should not shirk public office, but see it as a chance to serve their community, and thereby, God.  The Pharisees of Jesus time opted out of real life in an effort to themselves “apart.”  The result was hollow religiosity, which had little or nothing to do with real life.  Scripture is filled with examples of their pious antics, offered as attempts to elevate themselves above the common people.

The calling of a politician is not highly-regarded by many, but it must be recognized that politics plays a vital role in creating the kind of society in which we live.  It is not an easy profession, and it is rife with great temptations.  Chief among them is promoting one’s own good, rather than that of the people.  Christians undertaking such a calling must realize they are God’s servant, and also “Caesar’s.”  Choices they are called to make will often be conflicting.

Today, Caesar’s place is taken by the secular State, which is, not so much, “against God,” as “without God.”  When society no longer bases its law on God’s laws, this can pose serious dilemmas for Christians, especially those in public office.  They cannot impose their own moral values and beliefs on others, but they also must not take part in what, from a Christian viewpoint, is morally wrong.  There are so many little “Caesars” vying for a piece of our conscience—the party, the company, the club, and others.  

History shows, without a doubt, that separation of Church and State is absolutely essential.  Sometimes we are faced with a real dilemma—how to be a Christian in a secular world whose laws may often be “un-Christian.”  True Christians are challenged to be good citizens of their country, and at the same time good citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  This means they will fail neither in their duty to God nor to their fellow men and women.  At times, it can be a precarious balance, and requires astute attention to maintain (Tevye, the lead character in Fiddler on the Roof—United Artists, 1971,) faced such a challenge.)

This is one of the most important reasons to cultivate a “moral center” in children, enabling them to grow, knowing acceptable parameters of behavior as adults.  That is why living in a loving, caring home, with attentive parents, is essential to the development of a well-rounded character and conscience.  

As Christians, our first and deepest loyalty is to God, to Whom, alone, do we render worship.  But in other things, we gladly acknowledge and serve the secular powers, praying they will rule wisely and justly, assisting where we can, with guidance from the Holy Spirit. 

May God Richly Bless You!


Festive Praise.docx

View a recording of today's Holy Mass here:  


Edited by Father Michael
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