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HOMILY FOR 10/18/2020: 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
DEACON JOHN BARBOUR
Well, good day, my friends, and welcome to Holy Mass on this 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time. At this time of October, most of October is now in the rearview mirror, in the history books, in our memory banks. The days, if you haven't noticed, are getting shorter. The leaves are starting to turn and have been really a brilliant color for a lot of trees this season so far, and the oak tree in the front yard has littered my driveway literally with thousands of acorns. Lots and lots of acorns…and the squirrels are hard at work every morning gathering up their winter provision. And frost may soon visit us and make its first appearance this weekend on the pumpkins. Yes, autumn—for many their favorite season of the year. And so, we give thanks to our God for this day and this season that he has made.
Our world, too, continues to cope with and to fight against the sickness that no one alive today has ever had to contend with. Virtually, as we know, every man, woman, and child on the planet has had their life altered in some way as a result. And so, we pray to our God for an increase in faith, hope, and love, trusting him that as always, his will be done, and that we continue to pray for a cure and for those most adversely affected by the virus. Our nation as well, heading down the home stretch, the bell lap of campaign season as we as a nation will soon vote for who will lead us these next four years as our president. We pray for our country, and we pray that those eligible to vote, that they will exercise their civic duty and, in fact, vote.
A busy time this October, not only in nature, in the world, in our country, but also in our Church. This month of October has been designated the month of the rosary, Respect Life month, and today, World Mission Sunday.
First up, the rosary: a beautiful way to pray the gospels. There certainly is lots to pray for, my friends, in this old world of ours, in this country of ours, and if you've never prayed one, they can be found in the gathering space on the way out of church. If you can pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary, you're about 90 percent there. If you've got 20 minutes, I'd highly recommend: pray the rosary.
Second, the Church celebrates Respect Life month, whose theme this year is “Live the Gospel of Life” in commemoration of St. John Paul II’s encyclical called “The Gospel of Life,” who articulated the defense of the right to life for children in their mother's wombs, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the marginalized. So, it's a reminder to focus on the precious gift of human life, and it's our responsibility to care for, protect, and defend the lives of our brothers and sisters. So, pray for life this month and every day. Hey…maybe even pray a rosary for life.
And, last but not least, today is World Mission Sunday. Today we remember and pray for those on mission to the four corners of the globe who are proclaiming the good news that is Christ Jesus to the nations: ministering not only to their spiritual needs, but to their corporal needs as well. So pray for all our missionaries around the world on this special day, World Mission Sunday.
But our prayer for our missionaries should include us as well. Those of us gathered here in this church at this time as baptized Christians: aren't we too by nature of our baptisms called to go forth and baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit? Are we not called to go forth? In fact, the word itself “Mass” is derived from the Latin
ite missa est
: go forth. Our missionary world is outside these friendly walls of St. Edward's Church. After hearing God's word, after renewing our baptismal promises by reciting our Creed, being fed by the Body of Christ himself, we are called not only to keep the faith, but to go forth and to proclaim it as well. Outside these walls, in our families, on the bike path to our south, on our golf course to our north, in the hallways of our schools, in our neighborhoods…wherever you are, in season and out, convenient or inconvenient, easy or difficult, we are called to proclaim the risen Christ to our brothers and sisters.
In fact, Pope Francis in his encyclical a few years back called “The Joy of the Gospel” has this to say: by virtue of our baptism, he tells us, we have been called to not be disciples and missionaries, but missionary disciples. So, pray that we may truly be missionary disciples: not only followers of Jesus, but missionaries in our respective mission fields in the right here and the right now of our everyday lives and encounters.
So let me close with this request as I delve into today's Gospel reading (Matthew 22:15-21). Take one minute or some time this day to reach into your pocket, your purse, or whatever. OK, the Pharisees and the Herodians two thousand years ago tried to entrap Jesus by asking him if it was lawful to pay a census tax. “Show me the coin that is used to pay the tax,” he tells them. OK, all of us as citizens of the United States are obligated to pay taxes to our country for what they do for us, to provide defense, and to care for us. We pay those taxes—hopefully—willingly and ably as we again support our nation.
Jesus asks the Herodians and the Pharisees, “What image is on the coin?” And again, what image is on what you've pulled out of your pocket: your dollar bill, your coin, your five dollar bill? “Caesar,” they reply. “Washington, Lincoln, or whatever,” we might reply today if we had been asked that question. Then he tells them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Jesus’s answer avoids taking sides about the lawfulness of the tax. Instead, he raises the debate to a new level: to an eternal level. Should we not be more concerned with repaying God? After all, God made each of us as created beings in his own image.
In a commentary from Fr. John Bartunek's book,
The Better Part
, he says, “Every Christian holds dual citizenship, each with its own benefits and duties. Our birth makes us citizens of an earthly nation; our baptism makes us citizens of a heavenly kingdom. Christ commands us to live out both with justice and responsibility." The coin in the gospel belongs to Caesar. The bill or the coin that you have in your pocket right now—or your purse, your wallet—belongs to the United States of America. But what exactly belongs to God? Do we owe any taxes to the heavenly IRS, Father Bartunek asks. In reality, we do, and all that we possess—in fact, our next breath, our next heartbeat—is a gift and given to us by God.
So, my friends, on this 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, give to God what belongs to God. That's you and I as baptized Christians, my friends, and everything that we say and everything we do and everything we are. Enough said, then, my friends. It's time. It's time to go forth as Christ's missionary disciples helping to build up his kingdom. Show me, Lord, what more I can do for you this day, this moment, this week.
The quotation from
The Better Part
appeared on Fr. Bartunek's
as the post for October 15.
on Saturday, October 17 at 2:51PM