October 19th, 2014 – Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

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Today begins a series of readings from First Thessalonians. The earliest of Saint Paul’s writings, First Thessalonians was addressed to a community eagerly awaiting the triumphant return of the risen Christ, but whose faith was wavering in the meantime. In today’s Second Reading, Saint Paul speaks of their “endurance”; 2000 years later, we try to hang on as well, strengthened by the Eucharist, which offers us “participation in heavenly things” (Prayer after Communion).

The rest of today’s lessons address an issue faced by Christians, both modern and ancient: How do we live in the world? The question posed to Jesus is about paying a Roman tax, but it could easily be transposed by our times. Our owns taxes are sometimes used for things Catholicism judges to be against our beliefs. How are we to respond?

Jesus’ cryptic response, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” is amplified by the First Reading, in which the God of Israel uses a pagan king, Cyrus, to restore Israel to its land. That, for us, means that we must serve God’s reign, not Caesar’s, with our whole selves. Still, living in the world while belonging to God’s reign is no easy thing. Let today’s liturgy challenge the assembly to both faithfulness and discernment.