This is the 29th Sunday in ordinary time. The readings this week remind us of our obligations to God and our country. The readings illustrate that, with God’s help, we can be ideal citizens of both Earth and Heaven. We also celebrate World Mission Sunday this weekend, which reminds us of our identity as missionary people and of our responsibility in making known the Good News.
The first reading is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah. King Cyrus conquered the Babylonians, who had defeated the Jews 50 years earlier and had taken them into captivity. He decided to liberate the Jews from their exile and allow them to go back to their home country, Judea. In this passage, the prophet Isaiah declares that Cyrus, even though a pagan, was God’s instrument. The amazing fact is that God actually used Cyrus to restore His people to their homeland. God is able and willing to use ungodly powers to achieve His ends because He is the God not only of the Jews, but of history, and of the whole world. God’s plan also reveals His love for His people, so much so that He would go out of the way to save His people.
The second reading is taken from St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Thessalonica was a hardworking community; though they faced many challenges, they remained committed to their faith, preached by Paul and his companions. Hence, Paul praises them for their fidelity to God and to Christ and assures them of his prayers. He expressed to them his hope that they would continue to be faithful to the call God had given them, a call provided by the many gifts of the Holy Spirit bestowed on them.
In the Gospel reading, the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus with a question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus, knowing their thoughts, reminded them of their responsibility with a statement, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” With this answer, Jesus reminded his questioners that if they were so concerned and careful about paying taxes to the state, they should be much more concerned and careful about their service to God and their obligations to Him as their Creator and Lord.
We fulfill our duties to our country by loyally obeying the just laws of the State and working for the welfare of all citizens. It is the duty of Christians, as citizens of the country, to pay for the services and the privileges that the government provides. If we do not pay taxes, how will these needs be met? Another way of giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s is to participate actively in the running of the government, by electing responsible candidates. We become a faithful Heavenly citizen by obeying His laws and being faithful to the Church.
Today we celebrate World Mission Sunday. This annual observance was instituted 88 years ago in 1926 by Pope Pius XI. On this day, we send special prayers and financial contributions for the work of the Church around the world. The money collected on Mission Sunday is sent to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith to help mission dioceses around the world, to support pastoral and evangelizing programs, catechists and catechetical work, the building of churches and chapels, the work of religious communities in health care and education and other needs. This annual celebration gives us an opportunity to reflect upon our mission in preaching the gospel and also reminds us of our responsibility towards the missionary work of the Church around the world.
Our faith taches us that we are missionaries by baptism. So, the question is: how do we evangelize? We can evangelize by preaching and bearing witness to the Gospel, by prayer, and by providing financial support. However, the most powerful way of preaching the Gospel is by living an authentic Christian life—a life filled with love, mercy, kindness, compassion and a spirit of forgiveness and service. Hence, on Mission Sunday, let us learn to appreciate our missionary obligation and support the missionary work of the Church, by offering fervent prayers and by making generous donations.
This weekend, Rev. Lauro Minimo, director of vocations for the diocese, will celebrate Mass and talk about vocations to the priesthood and religious life at all Masses. Following the Saturday evening Mass, he, along with a panel of priests and religious, will meet with our high school youth in the hall to talk about religious life.