"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

29th SUNDAY (A) October 22, 2017

Isaiah 45: 4-6; Psalm 96; I Thessalonians 1: 1-5b; Matthew 22: 15-21

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

We have two CD’s for the upcoming liturgical Year B, which begins in Advent.

"First Impressions: Liturgical Year B." Contains three reflections for almost all the Sundays and major feasts of the year. It also has book reviews and additional essays related to preaching.

"First Impressions: Liturgical Years A, B and C." contains reflections on the Sundays and feasts for the three-year cycle.

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy. (These CDs will make a good Christmas gift for your favorite preacher or catechist.)

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.



 

The 29th

Sunday of

Ordinary

Time

Our first reading from Isaiah begins with a reference to God’s "anointed Cyrus." That is going to raise a question mark in the minds of the congregation, "Who was Cyrus?" And, "Why was he anointed?" Even if we don’t preach from the Isaiah text we might provide the Lector with a few introductory words to explain who Cyrus was. Otherwise, those in the pews are liable to miss the powerful message of the reading. So, let’s spend a moment with Isaiah.

Cyrus was the Persian potentate, a non-Israelite who permitted the Israelites to return to their homeland from their Babylonian captivity. He even allowed them to rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1-8). In slavery the Israelites may have hoped for an Israelite warrior to free them. Instead, surprise! Their liberator was a non-Israelite, pagan ruler, not one of the chosen people. "How could this happen?", they may have asked.

Isaiah makes it clear that while Cyrus was the instrument for the liberation, it was their God who was the source. What is further amazing is that Cyrus is called God’s "anointed." The title used for a descendent of King David is given to a pagan king. Or, to put it in another way: God works outside the box.

In addition, God grasps Cyrus’ right hand; a traditional sign granting royal power. Cyrus has been divinely appointed and has God’s authority. He is doing what God wants done – freeing the chosen people. He may not have known God; but God certainly knew him and used him as an instrument of salvation.

This is just another example of God even using non-believing humans to accomplish God’s will. The prophet tells us God works through humans, who may not even know the source of their will and power to accomplish good. In all things and all times God is the primary source for the good that happens to us, no matter the proximate source. "I am the Lord, and there is no other."

Which makes us scan our lives and the whole world, to look again at the good things that people do. They may be believers or not; they may claim God as their inspiration, or not. But God is there, grasping them by their hand to accomplish God’s good purposes.

At the recent, tragic Las Vegas slaughter the news was filled for days with accounts of people risking their own lives to save others; some died protecting loved ones and strangers. They did extraordinary good for others, at great personal cost, but we never were told if they did their heroic deeds because of faith, or religious beliefs. For some – many? – it was just the instinct to do good. Like Cyrus, God anointed them and grasped them by "the right hand" and led them to those God wanted helped, those God loves.

In a similar way I think of all the good things young Peace Corps volunteers have done in the world for people they didn’t know; whose language, culture, and surroundings were so very different and sometimes difficult for them. Again, many might not have claimed faith as the source of their good works, but that didn’t stop God from also taking them by the hand and leading them to those who needed help.

Isaiah provides us with insight. We see God’s hand working through the gifts of others, "anointed" to do good. "I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God besides me." It is obvious that our God’s good actions are not restricted to a church building, or to any one faith community.

The recent Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam war reminded me of a discussion I had with an aunt about the war. Defending our involvement in Vietnam she exclaimed, "My country right or wrong!" Regardless of the arguments about the morality of the war, she was saying that loyalty to country topped everything.

Today’s gospel addresses a similar and also divisive issue. Matthew tells us that the Pharisees and Herodians wanted to catch Jesus in a trap about his loyalties. They challenged him, "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar, or not?" For his accusers it was an either orrebuild their temple (Ezra 1: situation. They thought loyalty to God and to one’s government were mutually exclusive. The trap for Jesus was that if he said, "Yes, pay the tax," then the Jewish people in the crowd would have turned away from him, since many believed that paying taxes to the pagan Romans was an act of treason towards their people and God.

If Jesus said not to pay the tax, then he would be guilty of treason in the eyes of the Romans. The passage has been a favorite for those addressing issues of church and state. "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." But this often-quoted text doesn’t really give a clear answer to questions we, in a democratic society, might have. Jesus clearly did not answer the question put to him, "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" Jesus’ response puts the choice back in the hands of his adversaries. They will have to decide for themselves: What is of God? What is of Caesar?

The coin that bears Caesar’s image belongs to Caesar. Those trying to trap Jesus had the coin used for paying the tax, so they must already been paying it. But we humans are stamped with the image and likeness of God. We belong to God. We can pay the tax, but we do not belong to Caesar.

It may sound like a choice between two equals – God and Caesar. But they are not equal. We bear God’s image and wherever we are – at work, school, politics, home etc., our primary loyalty is to God and that governs how we think and act in the world.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102217.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice before the Lord who comes, who comes to govern the earth, to govern the world with justice and the peoples with fairness."

Psalm 96: 13

We live in a suffering, unjust world and those of us who have been blessed with a peaceful life are not to turn our backs on our brothers and sisters of this earth who are not so fortunate.

The places of distress in the world read like a litany:

On this World Mission Sunday, we can be overwhelmed by the world’s sorrow. Yet, it can be an appropriate time for Christians to take stock of what we can do. Pope Francis, in his message on this day, challenges us, "It is important to ask ourselves certain questions about our Christian identity and our responsibility as believers in a world marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent. What is the basis of our mission? What is the heart of our mission? What are the essential approaches we need to take in carrying out our mission?"

Get informed, get involved, support our missions, and do what you can to care for our world and its people. As Pope Francis states, "This Day invites us to reflect anew on the mission at the heart of the Christian faith."

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral,

Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Isaiah reading:

God says to God’s anointed, Cyrus...

"I have called you by name,

Giving you a title, though you knew me not."

Reflection:

Isaiah provides us with insight: God even uses non-believing humans to accomplish God’s will. We see God’s hand working through the gifts of others, "anointed" to do good. It is obvious that our God’s good actions are not restricted to a church building, or to any one faith community. God works outside the box too.

So we ask ourselves:

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

2. "Homilias Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilias Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626