Politics and faith. 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Joseph Evans comments on the readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time and Luis Herrera offers a short video homily.

Joseph Evans-October 19, 2023-Reading time: 2 minutes

Cyrus the Great was the 6th century B.C. emperor who enabled the Jews to return from exile in Babylon and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. He is remembered as an enlightened ruler who practiced religious tolerance as a way of winning over the peoples over whom he reigned. He is mentioned on several occasions in the Bible which, while mentioning his ignorance of the one true God, sees him as an instrument of divine plans. Thus, in today's first reading, we hear God say to Cyrus through the prophet Isaiah: "By my servant Jacob, by my chosen Israel, I called you by name, I gave you a title of honor, though you did not know me.".

The Church relates this reading to today's Gospel to teach us about the nature of political authority and its role in God's saving work. The gospel tells us of the episode in which the Pharisees and the Herodians tried to set Jesus up on the question of whether or not to pay taxes to Caesar. If Jesus had said "we must pay," this would have discredited him before the people, who deeply resented having to pay the heavy taxes imposed by the Roman invaders. But if Jesus had said "you must not pay," this would have gotten him into trouble with the Romans, who would not tolerate failure to pay taxes. But Jesus dodges the trap by getting to the heart of the matter: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.".

In other words, we must respect the relative authority of the secular power. Elsewhere, in the letter to the Romans, St. Paul teaches: "Let all submit to the constituted authorities, for there is no authority that does not come from God, and those that exist have been constituted by God. So that whoever opposes the authority resists the disposition of God; and those who resist him draw condemnation upon themselves." (Rom 13:1-2). The Christian instinct is to respect political authority unless it completely delegitimizes itself through clear tyranny or flagrant abuse of human rights. Even someone who does not know God, like Cyrus, can be an instrument of God. God uses this person without his knowledge. Does this mean that everything a political leader does is blessed by God? Clearly not. A government that approves or promotes something evil, such as abortion, is against God's will, but the government itself may still be broadly legitimate and therefore should be respected. A government would have to go very far - for example, by promoting genocide - to lose legitimacy. In principle, Christians are not anarchists and we respect political authority, we see the hand of God behind it and - however much we may not like it - we pay all the taxes expected of us without trying to evade them.

Homily on the readings of the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

The priest Luis Herrera Campo offers its nanomiliaA short one-minute reflection for these Sunday readings.

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