Homily (2) 29th Sunday Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 45:1.4-6; Ps 96:1,3,4-5.7-11; 1 Thes 1:1-5b and Matt 22:15-21
We are God’s Instruments for Evangelization!
Today we celebrate the Laity and the Mission Sunday, whose roles and duties are well spelt out in the various documents of the Vatican II. But the readings of today, embolden us and shed light on the significance of this celebration. In our various capacities we have a role to play in building the society making it a joyful and a peaceful place for all. We have a share in this mission of evangelization, since the Church and her mission belongs to all of us. And God is never tired of reminding us of these responsibilities, whether you are in the government, in the factory, in the cathedral, in the seminary, in the family, in the hospital or in the sick bed. We are all called to bear witness!
In the first reading of today Cyrus of Persia was a pagan king, a civil ruler, who had not received “baptism” nor “Holy Communion,” if I may say so! He was not a priest or deacon. But God surprisingly uses him as his instrument to free Israel, to save his people. Through Cyrus, the exiled, the chosen people of God were allowed in company of Ezra and Nehemiah to return to the holy land, to rebuild their home, their economy, their city and the temple once destroyed.
This is who God is. He can use any of us for spiritual, cultural and civil duties, for the common good. Our dispositions are also needed! Before Cyrus, God used Abraham, Moses, the Judges, Saul, David and many of Israel’ prophets, and Paul who were not initially perfect. Think of the various roles of these people in in our faith history! Some of them were used as leaders, warriors, preachers, intercessors, community organizers and consciences of their communities!
Take Paul for example. The same Paul that was initially a persecutor of the faith, experienced rejection and persecution himself, in his missionary journeys, is the one preaching faith, hope and love in Thessalonica today. Today, Paul is grateful to God for the growth of the mission that came to be as a result of the labor of love and endurance of the hope of every member of the Church. He addresses everyone, as “Brothers and sisters.” Paul says “all of you” not “some of you.” He sees everyone as agents of evangelization and instruments of the Holy Spirit to bring order, truth, justice, peace, solidarity, freedom, good health and stability to the world.
This is the vision of Christ in today’ Gospel (Matt 22:15-21). Confronted and tested in Jerusalem by the usual enemies, the Pharisees and the Sadducees on civil duties and responsibilities. Christ passed the test! He gave a good and responsible answer, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” and “give to God what belongs to God.” Could this also be referring to the separation of the Church and secular politics? What about orderliness in nature? Putting things in place?What about an attempt to secularize the sacred? What about our civil responsibilities?
If God could use Cyrus, to save Israel, there is nothing wrong with paying our taxes. There is nothing wrong with carrying out our civil duties, stopping at the red lights, on the street, so as not to harm others or ourselves. There is nothing wrong with praying for peace in our society, for praying for our presidents, our senators and our representatives in the government- to make good choices and decisions for the common good. Division of labor, for the common good! Just as we need good priests, religious, and preachers of the words, parents, children, grandpa, grandma, grandchildren, we need good men and women, good lay people, in the government. We need God fearing leaders who lead and serve the citizens and the nation, not their pockets, in the temporal world.
The point is that, wherever God choses to place us, is our place for mission, an opportunity to honor God, and to show solidarity with humanity and families of nations, in faith, hope, love, peace and justice!