29A. Isaiah 45:1, 4-6. The Lord makes King Cyrus, his anointed, savior or messiah of the Jewish people who freed them from their captivity and aided in their reestablishment as the Jewish nation. Cyrus was a non-Jew. “I called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.” It is God in his greatness who empowered Cyrus and any others who do truly good things in all of the events of humanity, whether they know God or not. Our reading quotes God as saying, “I am the Lord, there is other.” It is by the power of God that goodness comes to this earth, though he may choose many instruments or various people to work his Will.
Matthew 22:15-21. These last three Sundays in the readings from Matthew, Jesus makes it clear to the chief priests and the elders that they will no part in the kingdom of God because they have refused to have Jesus as the anointed, savior or messiah of the Jewish nation. The Jewish leaders in turn plot to entrap Jesus by luring him into saying something that will put him at odds with either the Jewish people or the Roman authorities. “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.” I am always in awe at the ingeniousness of this response. The glory of God shines through in his answer. I am sure that they were stunned. Jesus was not making any attempt to reason with them, since they were beyond any willingness of mind to be reasoned with but was simply fending off their attack. The truth is that all authority comes from God and God alone. Jesus says later to Pilate in John 19:11a, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.” As the first reading indicated, Cyrus was anointed king by God’s power and so it was with Caesar and anyone who is ever given authority in this world. God himself claimed that authority in the first reading by saying, “I am the Lord, there is no other.”
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b. Writing to the church in Thessalonica, Paul gives thanks to God knowing “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.” The power is the power of the Holy Spirit’s grace conferred on the Thessalonians who with much conviction accept his spiritual life within them. As God moved King Cyrus and also spoke through Jesus against the errant Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, God now moves the Thessalonians. “I am the Lord, there is no other.” Paul calls to mind the Thessalonians’ “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord.” These are the three theological virtues, like three pie slices forming a complete circle that is the wholeness of a full Christian life, putting our faith in his love for us gives us the hope for the eternal happiness that helps us to endure through the trials of this world.