Reflections

TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, OCTOBER 18, 2020

FOR GOD AND FOR OUR COUNTRY
1. God and Caesar
2. Good Citizens of God’s Kingdom and Our Country

Greeting (cf. Second Reading)
God loves you and has chosen you
and had the Good News brought to you.
May the grace and peace of God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. R/ And also with you.

Introduction
1. God and Caesar
We love our country, and it is good we do so. But should we agree with everything that happens in it and with all its structures? A lot of times we don’t know what is best for it. A Christian should learn to be discerning and to judge what happens among us and what we should do in the light of the Gospel. For we are citizens both of our country and of the Kingdom of God. Let us pray with the Lord in today’s Eucharist that we may be good citizens of both.

2. Good Citizens of God’s Kingdom and Our Country
Sometimes the Church is accused of meddling in politics or the affairs of the state. But the Church has to raise a prophetic voice to form the consciences of its members regarding the moral aspects of political and economic questions, to see to it that the laws of God and human rights and dignity are respected. A good Christian must be a good citizen and take up his responsibilities toward the human community. Church and state must respect each other without trying to control each other. The Church must continue to speak and actively support just movements especially the present #ENDSARS youth movement in our country. Their agitation is more than stopping police brutality and corruption. It’s an outpouring of fossilized grievances over general thief-politicians and their mismanagement. However, let us give to the state what belongs to the state and to God what belongs to God.

Penitential Act
What have we done for our country?
Have we done anything to enrich it
with the values of the Gospel?
Let us examine ourselves before the Lord.
(pause)

Lord Jesus, you wept over Jerusalem
because your people did not recognize
the coming of God’s kingdom:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Jesus Christ, you criticized
the religious leaders of your country
because they were misleading the people:
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, on the cross you prayed
that your Father would forgive
those of your people who rejected you:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Have mercy on us, Lord,
and forgive us all our sins.
Help us to live by the Gospel
and lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.

Opening Prayer
Let us pray
that the Lord may guide our world
(pause)

Lord, mighty God,
you lead the world and all humanity
to their destiny in you.
Give to the leaders of the world and of our country
a vision of the future
that is both imaginative and realistic
and respectful of human rights and dignity.
Help us to bear witness in everyday life
to the values of the Gospel
and to be involved in the work
of freedom, integrity and justice.
May we thus build up a community
that foreshadows our heavenly homeland.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

First Reading: A Pagan, Instrument of God’s Plan
Cyrus, without knowing it, serves the plans of God by liberating the Jews from exile. For God is the Lord of history.

1 Reading: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the gates unbarred: 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. I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
R. (7b) Give the Lord glory and honour.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds. R.

For great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
awesome is he, beyond all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are things of naught,
but the LORD made the heavens. R.

Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
give to the LORD glory and praise;
give to the LORD the glory due his name!
Bring gifts, and enter his courts. R.

Worship the LORD, in holy attire;
tremble before him, all the earth;
say among the nations: The LORD is king,
he governs the peoples with equity. R.

Second Reading: Words of Appreciation
Paul thanks God for the young Christian community of Saloniki; it is an ideal community of faith, hope and love.

2 Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labour of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

Alleluia Philippians 2:15d, 16a
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Shine like lights in the world
as you hold on to the word of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Church and State
We belong to both the human city and the city of God and we must give each its due. The values of the Gospel must be our guide.

Gospel Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Commentary
Authority, Truth and Family Planning
Granny said, “Eat your chicken or Baby Jesus will be angry with you.”
Pinky answered, “Granny, what has Baby Jesus got to do with eating chicken?”
It is a weak authority that has to appeal to Baby Jesus as a reason for eating chicken and doing so is giving a ridiculous education about who Jesus is. The nutritional value and delicious taste of chicken can speak for themselves! Truth itself is God-given and can defend itself. Nonsense is nonsense no matter who speaks it. Yet, in adult life we sometimes hear the Baby Jesus type of argument being used to impose views on the situations that have authority in their own reasonableness.
Let us take detailed example with the present so-called battle between the Church and State (God and Caesar) on the issue of family planning as a case in point. It is unfortunate that this has become a confrontational issue between two institutions that are designed to serve the same constituents. Imagine a husband and wife who have a financial problem. They spend their time blaming one another instead of sitting down and trying to figure out a budget together. It is very clear that many countries have gigantic problems and responsibilities arising from the fact that the population has more than doubled in the last few years. It is also very clear that the Church has a right and a duty to holler if solutions are proposed that fail to reverence the dignity of human life at all of its stages and also honour the meaning of human sexuality. Given the foregoing, both Church and State must work together to achieve the greatest possible good in the circumstances. Also, politicians and their appointees who take oath of office holding the Bible must abide by the divine prescripts of the hallowed Book and the authorities of its human custodians (those commissioned to interpret the laws therein contained). They should not make the often nauseating illogical remarks that the Clergy should face the Bible, when the men of God preach against their endemic corrupt practices.
In 1967 the authority of the Church spoke through Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Humanae Vitae. He stated clearly that human sexuality has two purposes, the unitive and the procreative. He stated that the human sexual act should always be open to the procreation of life as well as being an expression of the union or love between husband and wife. However, he stated a little further on that if, for valid reasons, a couple wanted to avoid conceiving they may have sex during the wife’s safe period. The same document recommended that confessors should act with the greatest compassion towards couples who found this teaching too hard to follow.
Humanae Vitae caused very strong reactions inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church. Its acceptance or non-acceptance became a symbol of loyalty or disloyalty to the Holy Father himself. To this day it is generally believed that a priest who is critical of Humanae Vitae will never be made a Bishop. Unfortunately, the issue of authority has at times clouded the search for truth and for the welfare of couples who experience difficulty regarding the number of children that they should have. It is at this point that we hear the “this will hurt the baby Jesus” kind of argument.
Even the oldest and most traditional moral theology has held that one must follow one’s conscience. Often following one’s conscience will mean choosing the lesser evil amongst many evils.
In the time of Jesus the issue of paying taxes to Caesar – the foreign government – was a delicate one. To pay meant submission, to not pay meant defiance. The Pharisees, more interested in law than in truth, tried to trap Jesus. But Jesus would not be caught in the dilemma. He answered “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
It can be very hard to find the truth when authority issues are involved. Unthinking submission can be as evil as rebellious rejection. The inner freedom to hear all sides and to recognize the truth is very necessary. Often in our traditional forms of prayer we were asking God to make our side win, to implement our solution or way of looking at the issue. In meditation, in praying without words or images, we try to be still before God. We are not trying to influence him nor are we being intimidated by him. We just be in his presence and present to his truth. In this way we can shed off prejudice and fear and come to see the truth in a fresh way. Sometimes, however, we may prefer to live in the slavery of submission because of the challenge that truth may put before us. But, from the words of Jesus, we already know… sin is not about ignorance. It is conscious decision to disobey God. Choosing evil in place of Good.

Intercessions
Let us remember before God our Father our country and Its people and give thanks for them and for all the people. Let us pray:
R/ We pray you, hear your people.

– That everywhere on earth the Church may speak out without fear for peace and the rights and dignity of the human person, let us pray:
R/ We pray you, hear your people.
– That justice, love and responsible freedom may be the basis of the social order in the world and in our country, that all may live in peace and security, let us pray:
R/ We pray you, hear your people.
– That all humanity may share equitably in the world’s material and spiritual goods, and that the state and civic organizations may help and protect the weak and the victims of calamities, let us pray:
R/ We pray you, hear your people.
– That all citizens may have a strong sense of civic responsibility and actively participate toward the common welfare; let us pray:
R/ We pray you, hear your people.
– That the Church in our country Nigeria may bear witness to God’s kingdom to all the peoples of Africa; that our country may play a role of honour in the family of nations and cooperate to world peace and unity, let us pray:
R/ We pray you, hear your people.

God, you love people and people are your concern. Make us share in your care through your Son who became one of us, Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God,
we bring this bread and wine before you
as the signs in which your Son Jesus Christ
relives his commitment to us.
May they also become the signs
of our responsibility towards others,
that with your Son we may be ready
to break the bread of ourselves
and to share ourselves with people
as a refreshing cup that is passed around.
Grant us this through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer
With Christ, we offer to the Father the sacrifice that saved the world. From Christ we have received the mission to continue his work and to bring his Good News to the ends of the earth.

Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray the prayer of Jesus
to his and our Father in heaven,
that everyone may seek his will and his kingdom. R/ Our Father…

Prayer for Peace
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles:
I leave you peace, my peace I give you.
Look not on our sins,
but on the many victims of war and violence,
and have mercy on them.
Grant peace to all nations,
regard the faith of your Church
and give to your people the gift
of the peace and unity of your kingdom,
where you live for ever and ever. R/ Amen.
The peace of the Lord be with you always. R/ And also with you.

Invitation to Communion
This is Jesus, the Lamb of God
who gave to God what belongs to God
and who saved us by his death and rising.
Through him we can live our faith,
labor in love, and show constancy in hope. R/ Lord, I am not worthy…

Prayer after Communion
Lord our God,
you are about to send your people
gathered here around your Son,
back to the human city
to join forces with all
to build up the city of God.
Make us sensitive to the needs of others
and help us to give to all equal chances in life,
to build up communities of friendship and love
and to warm the earth
with a touch of your gentleness.
Be present in our human world
through Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Blessing
In this Eucharist
we have given praise and thanks to God
not only as his people
but in the name of all humanity,
for Christ died and rose from the dead for all.
Our world is not yet God’s world,
the earthly realities are still mixed
with injustice, inequality, fear.
We are sent to make this earth God’s world.
May God give you the courage
to carry out this task and may he bless you:
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.
Go in the name of Christ and bring his love to all. R/ Thanks be to God.

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