--> Scripture Studies for Advent 2014 (Cycle B) now available here.
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A
October 19, 2014
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First Reading: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
Second Reading:1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:15-21
- This Sunday’s Gospel finds Jesus in Jerusalem just days before his Passion. He continues to offer his opponents a chance to repent until the very end, even as they conspire on how to destroy him.
- Taking common cause with the Pharisees, another group, “the Herodians,” join the conspiracy against Jesus. This group (mentioned in the Scriptures only twice in Mark, and once in Matthew) were supporters of King Herod. They were comfortable with the Roman occupation that kept Herod in power and from which they profited economically.
- The Pharisees, on the other hand, despised the Romans and Herod, and advocated passive resistance to their rule. Two more unlikely allies could hardly be imagined.
- After insincerely trying to flatter Jesus (verse 16), the Pharisees and the disciples of the Herodians attempt to trick him into making a damaging statement (verse 17). If Jesus had answered, “Pay the tax,” the Pharisees would use it to discredit him before the people as a traitor to the Jews. Had he said, “Don’t pay the tax,” the Herodians would have turned him into the Romans as one advocating insurrection (as it turns out, even though he says the opposite, he was falsely accused of this at his trial; see Luke 23:2).
- In the 1st Reading, we hear about Cyrus, the king of Persia and the most powerful man in the world of his time. It would be he that would issue the decree releasing the Jews from their exile in Babylon to return to their land. From where does this great king’s power come?
- In the 2nd Reading, Paul reminds of their chosen state before God (verse 4)? What are the fruits that Paul sees in their lives to confirm this call (v 3, 5)? Where are the fruits in our lives?
- In the Gospel Reading, why do the Herodians (allied to Rome) and the Pharisees (admired and influential religious separatists) make strange partners? How is Jesus a threat to each?
- What would the social or political consequences have been if Jesus had simply said “Pay Caesar”? If he had said “Don’t pay Caesar”?
- What does Jesus mean by his answer (verse 21)? What should we give to God?
- What is Jesus teaching about the relationship between Church and State? Which obligation is primary? Why?
- In your life, what belongs to Caesar? To God? How well are you giving to each? What prevents you from giving to God what is God’s?
Catechism of the Catholic Church: §§ 450, 2242
God certainly desires our greatest good, more than we ourselves do. Better than we He knows how it can be effected. The choice of these means is entirely in His hands, since it is He Who disposes and regulates all that happens in this world. It is therefore absolutely certain that whatever befalls us, will always be the best for us. --St. Augustine
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