Sunday, October 19, 2008  God takes an active part in our political history; He appoints secular political leaders.

Homily, Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fr. Felix

    
In today's readings, we see how God is involved in our human political life.How he uses political officials/offices to foster his cause.

In the first reading God uses Cyrus:

“Thus says the Lord to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him and making kins run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the doors unbarred.”

“For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you the title, though you knew me not.”  “It is I who arm you, though you know me not.”

Cyrus was a King of Persia (Persian King) whose Kingdom rose to power and replaced the Babylonian Kingdom. Upon finding that in Babylon there were People of Israel who were captured from their land and oppressed by the Babylonian Empire, Cyrus decided to do the right thing to correct that wrong. He released them and gave them back their gold and silver products, such as temple chalices that were plundered and confiscated during the exile. Along with these, King Cyrus provided the Israelites with material and expertise to rebuild their destroyed temple of Jerusalem.

For doing this act of kindness, particularly of releasing the people of Israel, God accords Cyrus the title of the “Anointed One”, the Savior, the Chosen one, the Messiah.

“Thus says the Lord to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him and making kins run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the doors unbarred.”

The shocking thing here is that a pagan secular monarch, is regarded as the “anointed one” of God, that is, the Messiah.

LESSON:

1) We see that God can use mundane political figure(s) to right the wrongs, to remove oppression, to administer justice, fairness, and prosperity; to establish order and peace on earth; to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.

2) Even when this is unbeknownst to them, political leaders are instruments of God on earth. They are doing or they are expected to do God's will.  “It is I who arm you, though you know me not.”

3) They are accountable and answerable ultimately to God.

4) They are not the ultimate authority above whom there is no other.

5) Their authority is subordinate to God's authority.

6) Their authority emanates from God's authority.

7) Their authority/power is not absolute power but relative power. So, the idea that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” reflects power corrupted by human pride.

8) All authority comes from God and ends up in God. Our Lord once reminded Pontius Pilate about this when Pilate said,

1. “Where are you from?” Jesus did not answer. “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?”

And Our Lord replied (Jn19: 11):

2. “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.

In Jn 3:27: John the Baptist says, “No one can receive anything except what has been given  him from heaven.”

In Rom. 13:1-7: St. Paul says, "Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those (authorities) that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear to good conduct, but to evil.  Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it, for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer. Therefore, it is necessary to be subject not only because of the wrath but also because of conscience. This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect those whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.”

We see this also in today's Gospel. Pharisees and Herodians ask him if it is lawful to pay tax to Caesar. Our Lord's answer is:

“Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”

“Whose image is this and whose inscription?”

“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

APPLICATION: LESSON:

1)   It is OK to pay our dues to the Caesar's (rules) of the world. Our Lord thus supports the proper understanding of the civil order, as seen in the First Reading, that civil servants are in fact servants of God.

As St. Paul Rom 13:1-7also says,

“This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect those whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.”

“Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.”

DISCLAIMER:  This is not about absolute loyalty but qualified loyalty. If a government provides needed goods and services then we must, in justice, give back to the government our loyalty and support.

ABORTION: This also goes for a government or a Caesar that makes laws that are just and fair and do not discriminate against the unborn or any group for that matter. One who legislates or supports unjust laws doesn't deserve our loyalty and vote support.

DESPOTISM: Furthermore, a political officer who appears to have no fear of God the Author of life; who thinks s/he is the Alpha and Omega of life; who thinks citizens derive their rights from him/her instead of God; who thinks the nation starts and ends with him; who thinks the nation begins and ends with him; is not worth our support. Our nation is very accurately defined as “one nation under God.” That sets the record straight right from the get go, that no one can claim any absolute authority, except God. No one can make himself or herself God.

2) A.  The implications are that we do God's will, as Christians, when we actively participate in the political process of appointing political servants. He are helping God appoint his “anointed ones” who will do His Will like Cyrus. We serve God when we take active role in the political process.

   B.  When we inform ourselves thoroughly about who are worthy candidates, with values, for the job. Not just voting for a party, which would be no different from nepotism. We have seen in David's anointing how careful and picky God is with whom he anoints. He doesn't anoint just about anybody. The care with which we undertake this role will make us render to Caesar and to God what belongs to either one of them in one and the same act.

When we appoint a candidate with values, our society is likely to be pleasing to God. When led by candidates without values, our society is likely to fall prey to some dehumanizing elements of leadership. Leaders who went against good God's values pitted the nation of Israel into numerous captivities and lengthy exile periods. We need the likes of Cyrus.

   C. It also implies praying for our political leaders for enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit as Cyrus was.

   D.  It also implies working in the health, education, security, economic, and other sectors of society, contributing to the welfare of the nation's/family/community with our God-given talent; transforming the world we live in as salt and light to our darkened world.

3) Notice also that the question was “Is it lawful to pay...”, but Our Lord's answer is “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

This implies that Caesar and God have already paid their dues to us. We are indebted to them right from the get go.

            “Show me the money/coin that pays the census tax!”

The mere fact that we have Caesar's coin in our hand says that Caesar has done his job to put money in our hands. With his money he thus gives us access to the riches and benefits of this nation. He is feeding us. He gives us jobs. He gives us to live in peace. He provides for basic needs (food, water, shelter and clothing). So, it's only fitting that we pay our taxes for these benefits.

EUCHARIST: It is fitting that our form of worship consists of the Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving”, because we are indebted to God for all He has done for us. Through His Messiah, the Anointed One Our Lord Jesus Christ, God has released from the bondage of sin as Cyrus did the Israelites from exile. Our serving God is only justice served. It is giving back to God what belongs to God.  If God has given us all that we are and have, then we are bound in justice to give back to God some gratitude, loyalty, and service.

This is why the Eucharist (which means thanksgiving) is the highest form of Christian service/worship.  It is basically a question of paying back the debt of gratitude we owe to God. There is no better way to accomplish that than through the Eucharist.

PRAYER BEFORE AND AFTER MEALS

In the same vein, this is why we say the grace before and after the meals we eat. The prayer after meals is: “We give you thanks Almighty God, for all thy benefits, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.”  We are thus rendering to God what belongs to God. We render to Caesar his dues when we pay tax on that food we are eating. So, in one act of eating we are fulfilling Our Lord's “Repay to Caesar what's Caesar's and to God what belongs to God.”

4) WE ARE THE LORD'S CURRENCY: Notice also that Our Lord asks what image is imprinted on the money and whose name is inscribed on it. Just as our dollar has George Washington's image, so did Caesar's money. When Our Lord is saying, “Repay to Caesar what's Caesar's and to God what's God's”, he is actually saying that we are God's currency. When we were baptized, the image and likeness of the triune God was imprinted on our souls and his triune inscription put on it. What Our Lord is asking therefore is that we give to Caesar his material dues, but give to God his spiritual dues, which is ourselves. So, as we serve the Caesar, so must we remember to serve God. We may not be one-sided on this. The two go hand in hand.

This implies that as God's currency we must make certain we are not devalued or subjected to inflation whereby we have useless monetary value. We would then be like salt that has lost its saltiness. Valuable currency makes a difference in society.

Like Cyrus, we are called to make a difference in people's lives; right the wrongs; set captives free; restore the Lord's ruined temple and image; restore the gold and silver of the Lord's temple.

We should maintain and boost our spiritual economy to keep our spiritual dollar-value high. We must make certain God's image and inscription on us is not blurred or lose its identity.

5) REDEMPTION: By his redemptive death and suffering, Our Lord Jesus Christ restored our divine currency to its original value at the cost of his own blood. Let's keep it that way, and not devalue it.

6) You are now that precious coin which when lost in the house the house owner swept the entire house (grooves and crannies), to find it, and upon finding it, celebrated exuberantly. There is tremendous joy at the conversion of even a single sinner.

 


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