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What Belongs to Caesar? | Breaking Open the Word at Home

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In the readings for this Sunday, Oct. 22, God gets a little political. That’s not new for God, because our relationship with God is meant to inform every area of our lives—including our civic life.

 

by Jen Schlameuss-Perry

 

The readings for this Sunday, Oct. 22, show us that, even when we can’t see it, God is working in every area of our lives. God used a pagan, conquering king, Cyrus, to free his people from exile and let them go home to Israel. Paul continues to give thanks for his friends, as well as to encourage them to live the call that they’ve received to represent the Gospel in every aspect of their lives. Jesus, when the Pharisees tried to trick him into saying something that could get him in trouble, made a bold statement about how we should live in relationship to our government—whatever that might be.

Readings

 

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.

 

Psalm 96
Give the Lord glory and honor.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b
For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

 

Matthew 22:12-21
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

 

You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:

Scriptures for October 22, Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Animated Scripture preview for kids at CathKids

 

Reflection

 

Catholics make great politicians. God tells us a lot about how we should do our part as good citizens and to work for justice in all parts of our lives. God even sometimes uses political circumstances to make good happen. In the first reading, we hear how God used Cyrus, the king of Persia and a pagan, to provide freedom for the people of Israel. At the time, Israel was under Persian occupation, and many of the Israeli higher-ups were in captivity in Babylon. God made Cyrus successful in his conquering so that Cyrus would allow the Israeli captives to return to Israel. God expresses how he works both with the faithful and those who don’t know him to accomplish the good that God wants done.

The second reading begins with a salutation to the people of Thessalonica from the people who established the Church there. They express their gratitude for their faithfulness and encourage them to keep up the good work. Paul encourages them to remember that they were called to a relationship with Christ by the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit continues to remain with them.

The Gospel is that famous story of when the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus into saying something that would either make him unpopular with the people or to make him say something that could be considered treasonous. If he says that taxes should be paid to the Roman occupiers, he’s going against God and God’s people, if he says they shouldn’t pay taxes, he’s giving Rome a reason to arrest him. Freedom of speech wasn’t a thing back then. But Jesus navigates their trap like a boss. He doesn’t get caught up in nonsense. He is true to God by being loving toward everyone—even the occupying government—and is not offended by what has to be done civilly. When our values are in direct opposition to the governing body, this can be tricky. We don’t want to support what we believe is wrong, and we have the privilege to speak out against it. And we’re called to be good citizens by helping our government to be it’s best—with our vote, our voices and our actions toward those who have no voice. Sometimes it can be difficult to know the difference between what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar. But, that’s why we have the Gospel to help us navigate. Next week’s Gospel makes it even clearer …

 

Kids

God knew that King Cyrus would let the people of Israel go home after they were kept away from their homes for years and years. How do you think you would feel if you weren’t allowed to go to your home for a long time?

 

Teens

Has anyone ever tried to trick you into saying something wrong, or something that could get you into trouble or hurt someone else? What was their motive? How did it make you feel, and how did you respond? What do you think of Jesus’ response when someone tried to trick him?

 

Adults

How hard is it for you to walk the line between being faithful to your religious teachings and being a good citizen? How do you see God using our leaders, even when they appear to be in direct opposition to God’s laws, for God’s glory? How do you live your call to do the, “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

Related: How to Preview the Sunday Scriptures with Your Kids

 

A little lectio

The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.

 

A little Bible study

Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:

  • During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
  • Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
  • Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
  • Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
  • If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)

For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.

 

The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”

 

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Pastoral Associate

Jen is a massive fan of all things Sci-fi, Superheroes and Cartoons. These things, more than any other, occupy her mind & keyboard as she ponders them through the lens of her Catholic Faith. Jen is a Pastoral Associate for a Catholic Church, a wife, and mother of two boys.

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