Volume 2 - Twentieth Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A –
October 22, 2017
Lanie LeBlanc OP
Barbara Cooper, OP
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
Paul O'Reilly SJ
6. -- (Your
reflection can be here!)
One part in particular in this Sunday's Gospel reading
caught my attention. It is "Knowing their malice, Jesus
said,..." Jesus always has something important to say, but
my focus stopped before I read it. My first thought was why
do people act with malice?
What is ironic is that I was trying to answer a question
about that type of good/evil with my grand daughter (almost
9) as I drove her home from school today. She is reading a
non-fiction account about the US Presidents who have been
shot throughout the years. We were discussing if it was ever
OK for someone to shoot a really bad guy. Talk about a heavy
conversation in traffic... and with a youngster who is a
very deep thinker... and whom we shield from the details of
the daily news.
She is smart beyond her years but also has some
challenges so I have been updating my own skills lately by
reading current thinking on such topics as child
development, brain functioning, and executive functioning
skills. (You can see where she gets her penchant for
"interesting" personal reading topics!) Blending science,
reality, and spirituality is not an easy task, but it is
what we all have to do as we mature into adults and
authentic people of faith.
I believe that people are made in God's image and are
inherently "good". (She would remind me, "very good"!!) What
happens to us is we exercise our free will.... and we go
astray. Going so far astray as to have "malice" is the
result of a complicated mixture of things, however. The
hierarchy of life goes haywire and the person unfortunately
becomes the most important thing in his/her mind over
anything and everything else.
That is what happened to the Pharisees, their disciples
and the Herodians. Their pompousness and their beliefs
interfered with being authentic. Would they take Jesus's
instruction? Would they give glory to God and respect
God-given authority? Would they listen to a view "other"
than their own? Jesus's crucifixion tells us that many of
them said "no".
Will we? Do we believe and act as if we believe what God
said through Isaiah: "I am the LORD, there is no other." Do
we honor God as God or make other things into gods? Do we
give "to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what
belongs to God." Do we set up our own way of doing things
and show disdain, if not malice, towards anything that is
Our answers are things that point our lives in a
particular direction. It is that easy to choose good or
evil. It is that hard to recognize when a mis-step really
leads us down a slippery slope to who knows what! To arrive
at malice takes practice.
Jesus instructed his haters, these hypocrites, anyway.
Jesus continues to offer us instruction and second chances
also. If we realize Who God is and who we are not, our
chances of being more open minded increase. Being authentic
leads to good; being hypocritical and malicious leads the
other way, both one step at a time.
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc
Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – October
If you are on Facebook, or read the comments in some news
sites, you have probably experienced the kinds of people who
roam around looking for "trouble". They like to write things
to upset or trap people, to inflate their own status by
making others look foolish. Somewhat like the Herodians and
Pharisees in today's Gospel story.
Jesus makes short shift of them.
"Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"
They produce the Roman coin which they possess – lawful
"Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what
belongs to God"
But what belongs to God?
Paul seems to have found God's "currency" in the
believers in Thessalonia.
""We always thank God for you and pray for you
constantly. We never forget your loving deeds as we talk to
our God and Father about you, and your strong faith and
steady looking forward to the return of our Lord Jesus
(The Living Bible)
"Strong faith". "Loving deeds". "Enduring hope". All our
When we say someone is "faithful" we usually mean that
person is trustworthy, "dependable", "devoted". We give God
the "currency" of our faith.
That fidelity can only lead to loving deeds, because "God
is Love", and those who live in the Divine Spirit live in
love. We grow in love for others and for all of Creation.
And we endure, firm in our commitment and sturdy on the
Or as Paul would write in another letter: "And now these
three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of
these is love."
"Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose
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."
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordered Time - October 22
Isaiah 45:1 & 4-6; Responsorial Psalm 96; 1st
Thessalonians 1:1-5; Gospel Acclamation Philippians 2:15-16;
The reading from Isaiah tells us God used a Pagan Emperor
to release the Jews from slavery in Babylon. Isaiah says God
anointed Cyrus the Great of Persia. Cyrus the Great was a
Persian Emperor whose military achievements made Persia
successor to the empires of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. A
couple centuries later Alexander the Great destroyed the
Persian Empire. The Greeks then controlled the Middle East
and parts as far south and east as India. The chosen people
were often overrun, conquered, subjugated, and enslaved by
whichever empire was in prominence. It was like living in a
shooting gallery. The Jews loved their freedom and when they
lived by faith they knew their God was present to them.
Yahweh was real, no mere fabrication of craftsmen. The faith
that found resonance in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob developed
in the culture and rituals of the Hebrew people. It grew in
intensity and depth with every communal experience. It found
inspiration in its history and from the wisdom of the
prophets. With release from slavery in Egypt, the
relationship between the Hebrews and Yahweh became a
covenant. And the Law of Moses became its contract with God.
For nearly a thousand years this people suffered wars and
defeat and periods of bountiful peace followed by harsh
captivity and servitude. In every loss there followed an
awakening leading to a greater depth of faith in the active
presence of the Living God. Every defeat was the beginning
of rebirth for their unique faith in One God, Yahweh, "I am
who is with you".
The Isaiah story visualizes God calling Cyrus to be his
anointed. This pagan emperor is named. Typically the Hebrew
Scriptures don’t honor gentile conquerors by naming them.
Neither Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Assurbanipal of Assyria,
nor Pharaoh of Egypt is named in their writings. They are
not part of God’s living presence. But Cyrus is named the
Cyrus signed a decree releasing the Jews from slavery and
returning them to their homeland. He insists they are to
rebuild the temple. He provides artisans, funds, and
materials for its reconstruction. He returns the Temple’s
gold and silver vessels looted by the Babylonians. Cyrus’
motives were more practical than religious. He knew a people
living their culture and religious customs were less likely
to rebel and drain his treasury by a need to fund an
occupying forces. A modern parallel to this plan of Cyrus
would be the Marshal Plan the United States initiated after
the Second World War. It revived Europe after the horrible
devastation of its cities and the loss of hundreds of
thousands of combatants and non-combatants. It rebuilt
infrastructure, cities, factories and farms. While it was
certainly the Christian thing to do, it was more a foil to
Communism and way of growing the economy of the United
States. It was a wise move and resulted in peace and a vital
economic life in Europe for more than seventy two years.
Could we say the authors of that plan were anointed by God?
Could we identify George Marshall, Harry Truman and the
Senate and House of Representatives as God’s anointed?
Perhaps we’d understand God’s intervention more evident if
we realized the executive branch leaders were Democrats
while the majorities in the Senate and the House were
Republican. Those who crafted the Plan in a bi-partisan way
would laugh to think themselves anointed by God. But the
Plan’s effect on millions was hope for the entire world. Is
this evidence of the presence of the Living God? Is perhaps
even bi-partisanship an instrument of God?
The gospel of Matthew is a conflict story. It pits the
brilliant Pharisees against Jesus. Jesus’ popularity at this
time was high. Jesus never played up to the Pharisees, the
Scribes, the Sadducees, nor the chief priests and the
Sanhedrin. His constant message had been to the people. He
never solicited support of either civil government or
religious leadership. Perhaps they felt slighted? Perhaps
they were jealous they failed to draw his crowds? It is
likely they felt threatened by Jesus’ message of unifying
communal respect and his love and dignifying caring. Every
individual from the most exalted to the least scrub maid or
stable hand had an equal place in the community of Jesus.
All were healed of physical ailments: every person who
approached him, beggar or centurion, was welcomed and healed
of illness; each were made whole.
The work and message of Jesus confronts self-centered
political and religious influence of that time and ours as
well. He had to be destroyed and his message with him.
Power, control of others whether political or religious,
is acquired by dividing groups against each other. That’s
what the Pharisees did. That’s what the Sadducees did.
That’s what the Scribes did. That’s what the chief priests
and the Sanhedrin did. That is what the Roman governor did.
Is that what we do? Do we become victims to group-think
instead of personal reflective judgment? Are we politically
correct in word but in our hearts carry the divisiveness of
racism, sexism, classism, consumerism, materialism,
nationalism and ego-centric living? These ‘isms divide us,
separate us, separate us into winners and losers. Are we
players in this story?
The Pharisees relied on the hatred of the people for the
Roman occupiers as they planned to separate Jesus from his
disciples and from his followers. These Pharisees, however,
carry in their purses the coin of the Roman Emperor. The
coin was not permitted to pay the Temple tax. That coin was
stamped with the image of the Emperor. Carrying that coin
and relying on it was idolatry, as it seemed to make Caesar
a god. Jesus’ answer is clever and deflates the Pharisees’
arrogance. Is there a deeper message here? Are we in this
story? Are we Pharisees, working to game civil or religious
systems? Are we the Emperor, demanding tribute from the
unfortunate? Are we the crowd, looking for entertainment,
enjoying the arrogant Pharisees getting their come-uppance?
Where is the lesson for us?
In John’s gospel Jesus prays for his disciples. He prays
that they may not be of the world. But he insists they will
live in the world. We are included in the disciples he prays
for. Jesus is with us through our community, through the
Word proclaimed to us, through the sharing of the Bread and
Wine. We live in the world but are not of the world.
We render to God what is God’s when we work for unity
among us. What is of God always unifies, insists on respect
for the dignity and worth of the material universe and
especially every person. Creation comes from God and God
sees it is good. When we render to Caesar what is Caesar’s
we acknowledge that what Caesar desires – power, wealth,
control, and influence – are not our gods. Our God is the
God of the heart. We live in the world; we must earn our
daily bread. We bond together in support of each other and
discover the security only love, care, and respect for
others give us. When wealth and power are the gods we
worship we render to Caesar what is God’s.
It the first half of life, persons struggle to discover
ourselves. In that time the things of this world are gods,
plotting our courses of action, our thoughts and intentions,
our energy and ambition. As we mature – if we mature – into
middle age, what we’ve achieved begins to lose its bright,
shiny, attractive appeal. We laugh about mid-life crises.
However, in that period of our life we begin understanding
what Jesus is talking about. What unifies, builds community,
is of God. What tears us apart, is divisive, and brings
conflict is of the world and serves Caesar as a god.
Putting this into the context of our assembly, of when we
come together as the Body of Christ to worship. At Mass, we
have the offertory rite. We tend to think of it as the
priest getting things ready for the Eucharistic sacrifice.
It seems to be something that needs to be done and over
with, lacking in liturgy, a setting of the table. It is
that, but more. Most parishes have offertory processions in
which laity carry hosts and wine to the altar. Some parishes
wait till the collection has been completed and bring that
financial offering to the altar as well. In large buildings
the procession is expedited before the collection is
complete and the collection is spirited off to a secure
place and not brought to the altar.
Is there more depth in meaning of the offertory ritual:
can the people in the pews more completely participate in
this effort? In contemporary society money is a symbol of
the achievements of our work. It symbolizes the hours we
spend working. But when we think about its meaning for
participants at Mass, most, clergy and laity, speak of the
collection as the way we support the Church. The funds pay
for the buildings, for clergy and religious, for care of the
poor, and for educational efforts of the parish. In vibrant
parishes the collection also provides funds for sister
churches in third world countries. Thinking of the
collection in this manner reduces it to a payment of dues to
What we give is an offering of our work. This includes
our efforts working in the world as well as efforts
maintaining a home, caring for children and aged,
conversations with neighbors, shopping, and even
entertainment. This offering is about us and who we are and
what we work at. Because it is money, it’s easy to lose the
connection between the offerings and the bread and wine
which the presider offers as the fruit of the earth and the
work of human hands. We lose sight of the material the
presider asks the Spirit to consecrate for us. The bread and
wine are representations of what we need to maintain and
energize human life. We eat our daily bread by the sweat of
our brows. The bread represents our work, our efforts, our
relationships. Even for those who have nothing to spare to
put into the collection basket, they too must, in their
hearts and minds offer up the events and work of their daily
living so it too may be put together with the offerings of
all others to be consecrated.
In our time when the person is crushed and molded into an
individual, a statistical economic unit for production or
consumption, we need to life up our efforts and bring them
to God. If we fail to do that our lives become impersonal
and valued only by the money our work provides to a
social-economic entity. If we allow that to occur, we are
making Caesar our god. We must remember that each person in
our assembly is valued. Makes no difference if a person is
homeless or resides on the largest house on the highest
hill. It makes no difference if the person is a manager or a
line worker, if a person is an investor or a day laborer, if
a person works outside the home or works to maintain a
household and provide care and comfort for family: it makes
no difference. All are welcome, all are invited, all are
needed to offer their work and efforts to God on the altar.
As persons, we gain dignity and worth by placing our work on
the altar during our offertory. The simple things in our
lives are blessed, are made sacred by the power of the
Spirit through the agency of the presider. In that
consecration, our lives are joined with the life, work,
healing, and efforts of the Messiah anointed by the Father
in the Son. All our work is necessary and important and we
are lifted up. The gifts are made sacred and our human life
becomes more than day-to-day humdrum. They become the Body
and the Blood of the Anointed one, the One who has gone
before us to show us the Way. As we approach the altar in
Communion procession – a procession that mirrors the
processions of the Jews to the temple on the three great
feasts and festivals of their religion – we approach as
individuals. But return to our places as One Body. That is
why it is liturgically correct and important we acknowledge
our Oneness in the Body of the Anointed one, the Christ, by
standing until all have returned to their place. We
recognize we render to God what is God’s. We render to
Caesar what is Caesar’s. Only then there is hope of peace:
then there is shared joy: then there is One Body from which
no pain, no conflict, no war or natural disaster can ever
tear us apart. Then we deny power to those who would divide
us. Then we are community and made whole with our brothers
and sisters. May it be so!
Carol & Dennis
OUR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES: 29th SUNDAY A
‘To avoid arguments,’ people tell us, ‘don’t ever talk
about religion or politics.’ In real life, though, it’s not
possible to leave them out of conversation altogether. Our
gospel story today illustrates this.
It may come as a shock that the good, the great, the
kind, the loving, the merciful, the compassionate, the
fair-minded and forgiving Jesus, could make so many enemies.
Yet bit by bit more and more people turned against him and
even hated him. Today we meet two groups of them - the
Pharisees and the Herodians. The Pharisees were totally
opposed and hostile to the occupation of their native land
by the Romans, to their cruel and brutal rule, and to having
to pay tax to Tiberius Caesar, the Roman Emperor at that
The Herodians, on the other hand, for their own motives,
together with their puppet king Herod, ‘crawled’ to, and
collaborated with Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, and
with his army. While both of these Jewish factions hated
each other, they hated Jesus even more. In this incident we
find them hanging out together, and ganging up on Jesus.
It’s another instance of the truth of the saying that ‘the
enemy of my enemy is my friend’.
Their plan is to trap Jesus, to catch him out and bring
charges against him, and in the long run to get rid of him,
once and for all. Their opening statement is both true and
clever. They praise Jesus for his honesty and integrity, for
always telling it like it is without fear or favour. But
after the flattery of their introduction, they go in for the
kill by asking him this seemingly straightforward question:
‘Teacher],’ they ask, ‘should we pay taxes to Caesar or
It was a loaded question, something like that old trick
question, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ If Jesus
were to say that the tax should not be paid, he would be
agreeing with the Pharisees. But then they would report him
to the Roman occupiers for treason, and have him arrested.
On the other hand, if he said the tax should be paid, he
would be agreeing with the Herodians, but at the cost of
finding himself totally alienated from, and completely
offside with his own people, who believed that they had only
one Lord and Ruler - their God! So either way, Jesus finds
himself in a sticky ‘no-win’ situation.
He is well aware of the malice and insincerity of their
question, but also of the danger of giving them a straight
answer. So in a very ingenious way he answers these
hypocrites with a question of his own: ‘Let me see the money
you pay the tax with,’ he says, ‘whose head is on the coin,
and whose name is in the inscription around its edge?´
‘Caesar’s,’ they answer. This gives Jesus the perfect chance
to return to them the responsibility for answering their own
question. ‘Very well,’ he goes on, ‘give back to Caesar what
belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ He is
saying In other words, ‘don’t look to me to settle your
alleged taxation issue. It’s up to you to work out and
decide for yourselves, what belongs to Caesar and what
belongs to God.’
The answer Jesus gave should not be taken to mean that we
have no responsibilities to our local, state and federal
governments. In fact, in a democracy like ours, they
represent us. To deny having any responsibility to our
ruling powers is to take the line of anarchists. On the
other hand, no civil power has the right to require the
complete submission of the persons they govern. They do not
have absolute authority over their people. They are
accountable to their people, and they are also accountable
to God. In their dealings with their citizens they must
therefore respect the requirements of truth, fairness,
integrity, justice and decency. Where they fail to do so,
there must be consequences.
In the name of truth, justice and charity, we are
entitled to criticize and protest the actions or non-actions
of our governments, whenever they violate human dignity, our
own or that of others. When people really love their country
and its people, they sometimes have to show strong
opposition. The protests around Australia against the cruel,
callous and inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum
seekers reflect this need, concern and commitment. In South
Africa’s apartheid system many good people found they had to
disobey the immoral laws of the state. In the USA, both
black and white people found they had to oppose and disobey
the unjust laws of segregation operating in some of the
southern states. As St Thomas More, a famous dissident and
martyr expressed the conflict: ‘I am the king’s good
servant, but God’s first of all.’
We are all citizens of two kingdoms: citizens of the
political territory where we live and citizens of the
kingdom of God. As Jesus says, they both require our
loyalty. We all depend to a large extent on our civil
governments. Very few if any of us can supply our own water,
electricity and telecommunications. We look to our civil
governments for education, hospitals and roads, and for
welfare services for the unemployed, the handicapped and the
elderly, etc., etc. It’s obvious that these services will
continue and improve only through the cooperation and
support of the community at large.
For the most part we give this support through paying
taxes. Taxes are not, as they are sometimes misrepresented,
necessary evils. They are our contributions to making
available the community services and benefits we may tend to
take for granted. In a just tax system, we help to spread
more evenly the wealth of the community, so that every
member of the community has access to what is needed for a
life of integrity, human dignity and contentment. It’s a
matter, as the Three Musketeers put it, of being ‘all for
one and one for all’.
There’s just so much wisdom, then, in that famous reply
which Jesus gave his questioners: ‘... give back to Caesar
what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’
So, let’s take it to heart! Let’s do it!
Year A: 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
"Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God
what belongs to God."
Let me apologize in advance if this seems like a slightly
self-indulgent homily, directed more internally towards
Jesuits than to the Catholic faithful as a whole. But I ask
you to bear with me just this once. Because this Gospel
always makes me think of my greatest Jesuit hero, Father
Andrew Morrison, of the Society of Jesus, British Province,
- a very great and holy man, a national hero, an
internationally renowned hero of the Faith and a man of
whom, almost certainly, you will have never heard.
Well, let me have just five minutes of your time to tell
you about him, exactly the way I first heard his story.
When I first went to Guyana in South America, I met a man
called Freddie Kissoon in the queue at the Post Office and
we got talking. I told him that I was a Catholic priest; he
told me he was a Marxist and an atheist. It didn’t
immediately seem like it was going to be a long
But then he found out I was a Jesuit. And then suddenly
he wanted to know everything about me – where I was from,
what I was doing now, how long I expected to be here. I
answered as best I could and wondered at the sudden change
in his attitude. Then it became clear. He asked:
Do you know Fr Andy Morrison?
I answered ‘yes’. And the strength of his handshake
nearly took my arm off. "Without him," he said, "this
country would never have become a democracy. I don’t know if
I will ever believe in God, but I will always believe in the
Well, you don’t hear that every day! But I had to explain
to him that because I had only just arrived in the country,
I hadn’t the faintest idea of what he was talking about. And
so he started to tell one piece of the unwritten history of
my own religious order: the story of Andy Morrison. After a
disastrous career as a teacher in Jesuit schools, they made
him editor of the ‘Catholic Standard’ – the diocesan
newsletter – which, like diocesan newsletters all over the
world, including our own dearly beloved Westminster Record,
primarily concerned itself with internal church matters –
the doings of the Bishop, the events in the Parishes,
perhaps rather daringly with matters of current affairs of
particular concern to the Catholic Faithful, such as the
conduct of local schools. A good work certainly and worthy
of a Jesuit’s service, but hardly earth-shattering.
But, in those times of dictatorship and repression in
Guyana, and under Andy’s editorship, that little weekly
8-page diocesan newsletter became the only free press in the
whole country. It was the only place where people could go
to find out what was really happening in their country.
The government, naturally, did their best to suppress it.
When gangs of bandits were paid to smash the presses, the
Legion of Mary worked day and night to fix them for printing
day. When the importation of newsprint was banned, so many
fishing boats risked their livelihoods to bring in extra
supplies that they had to take over the cathedral’s choir
loft for storage. When the government stopped newspaper
vendors from selling it, Andy went out himself to distribute
it in Stabroek square – Georgetown’s equivalent of
But when Bernard Darke, his best friend and the
photographer on the Catholic Standard, was murdered in
mistake for himself and shortly afterwards a bomb blew up
the house his community lived in, Andy confronted the choice
of his life – to stop doing his work would be to abandon the
mission of Truth he had been given by God and his superiors;
but to continue it almost certainly meant death very soon.
Like priests in difficulties are supposed to do, he went to
the Bishop. The Bishop had an idea. The Bishop’s hobby was
magic – conjuring tricks. He taught Andy a few, so that,
wherever he went, his magic tricks would draw a crowd that
would deter his would-be murderers. It worked. And so for
years, every printing day, Andy would go to Stabroek Square,
distribute his newspaper and do his magic tricks for the
delight of the crowd and his own protection against the men
who wanted to kill him.
As was said of Jesus, "When they heard his parables, the
chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about
them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they
were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet."
Many years later, after the restoration of democracy,
Andy Morrison was hailed as a hero. He received
international awards for heroic journalism and Guyana’s
highest national honour – the ‘Arrow of Achievement’ – think
of it as a knighthood. He even achieved that much rarer
honour – the universal love and respect of his Jesuit
But let me tell you what really impressed me about him.
I have met a few celebrities. And when you meet them,
most celebrities only ever want to talk about themselves and
the things that made them celebrities. But when I met him,
he was 82; he had retired 2 years before from the Catholic
Standard and had been sent to be Parish Priest of Linden – a
tough hard mining town in the depths of depression caused by
the closure of the mine and the unemployment of the majority
of the population. And it was also populated largely by
supporters of the previous regime he had been so
instrumental in toppling. Not what you might think of as an
easy retirement parish. But he was enthused – he spoke with
characteristic passion about what he hoped he could lead the
Parish in achieving – liturgies that would lift the souls of
a depressed people; pastoral action that would reach out to
the sick, the poor and the dying; mobilization for social
justice that would address the iniquitous local politics of
the town and... well, I won’t go on as long as he did. There
was not one word about his own past, his own previous
achievements. In fact, there was only one sentence about
himself – only one use of the word ‘I’. It was his last
sentence when he said: "It’s the best job I’ve ever been
And I thought to myself, if I make it to 82, retire from
a successful life’s work that has changed the history of my
country noticeably for the better and am asked to be
available for a new and very difficult mission, I hope I too
will be able to utter those words, because they are the
finest example I have ever heard of what is supposed to be
the central characteristic of a good Jesuit – availability
for Mission – the willingness to be sent wherever you are
needed and to find God in whatever work you are sent to do.
Because I believe that is what it is to render unto Caesar
what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
Let us pray for the repose of the Soul of Fr Andy
Morrison, of the Society of Jesus.
And let us stand and profess our Faith in our own place
in God’s service.
By the way, if anyone wishes to read Freddie Kissoon’s
obituary for Andy, it is available on this link:
Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and
insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the
preaching you hear. Send them to
email@example.com. Deadline is Wednesday
Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.
-- Fr. John