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Scripture Reflections - October 18
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 45; 1, 4-6
2 Thessalonians 1: 1-5b
Matthew 22: 15-21

Archives Msgr Paul E. Whitmore
Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore

Many of you will remember back in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was president. Nuns in classrooms proudly hung pictures of the “two Johns” – Pope John XXIII and John F. Kennedy. After his tragic assassination, coins were soon struck – the Kennedy half-dollar – bearing that famous profile. For a brief time in history, he was king – our hero.

Soon after, he was discovered to be a monarch with clay feet – just like most other earthly monarchs.

In today’s first reading, we find an unusual prophecy. Isaiah delivers a personal message to a pagan monarch, the Persian King Cyrus. He refers to him as the Lord’s anointed! The message is that there is only one God, and he alone is responsible for the rise and fall of earthly kings. He is the one who opens doors and causes kings to “run in his service.”

In other words, as the famous spiritual sings, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

In the second reading, Saint Paul reminds the Thessalonians that “our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”

The two readings together prepare us well for Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees who were trying to trap him – “Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God, what belongs to God.”

To the Herodians, Caesar was a god. We wonder if they really got Jesus’ message that there is only one God of the universe to whom we owe absolute allegiance. He is the one to whom we owe everything – the air we breathe, the life we live, the possessions we cling to so jealously.

We note that Jesus called to the Pharisees’ attention the inscription on their coins. Just as the profile of Caesar claimed their allegiance, so too does the image and inscription of God on our hearts demand of us our complete obedience.

God inscribed on every heart the command, “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart (soul, mind, and strength), and you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.

And what do we owe to Caesar whose image and inscription is on the coin of the realm (and on our currency)? We owe the payment of taxes, and the obedience to our nation’s laws, provided that they are not contrary to the laws of the one great Lawmaker. Before the face of this Judge, we must one day stand to give an accounting of our stewardship.

As we prepare to vote in national elections, it might be good for us to sit down and draw up two lists – one with all we owe to God, and one with all we owe to our country and its leaders. What we place in those columns will be determined by the depth of our faith and its values, by our understanding of justice, by thorough and intelligent forming of a right conscience, and by our courage in voting according to that conscience. May God give us the courage and the wisdom to make a right decision.

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