29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Oct. 18, 2020

29A20.    Isaiah: 1, 4-6.    In Isaiah 10:6 God sends Assyria to punish unfaithful Israel.    Much later in this first reading God also used Cyrus to work his divine Will by moving him to liberate the captive Hebrews.  Cyrus entered Babylon without a fight because, more than likely, he had built up allies within the city who opened the gates to him.  Cyrus seems to have been a master of diplomacy by gaining victories without going to war.  Cyrus may have been looking forward to building a nation friendly to him by releasing the Hebrew captives and helping them financially to rebuild Israel.  God declares his divinity: “I am the Lord, there is no other.”  God declares to Cyrus and to all the world, “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.”  God is the root source of all that is truly good.  It does not matter that the agent of the good believes in God or not.

Matthew 22:15-21.  The Pharisees hated the Roman occupation of Israel whereas the Herodians embraced and profited from it.  Both hated Jesus because the people went to him and not them.  The old phrase is the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  So they joined forces against Jesus.  They thought they had the perfect trap.  If Jesus chose to pay the taxes, he was the enemy of the Jewish people who hated Roman occupation.  If Jesus chose to refuse to pay taxes to the emperor, he would be executed by the Roman troops. They were sure they had him. His answered stunned them.  “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  In John 19:10a-11, Pilate said to Jesus, “Do you not know that I have the power to crucify you?” Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.”  God, the source of all power, empowers us to make choices as he did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Although empowered by God, he allows us to choose good or evil; despite the fact that the power to make that choice came to us from God.  What belonged to Caesar was a gift to him from God.  In the first reading it was God who empowered Cyrus, though Cyrus had no idea who the God of Israel was.  Let us adore our God and beg him to help us use the resources he has given us to accomplish his Will.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b.  Paul writes: “For our gospel did not come to you by word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”  The Holy Spirit gave the Thessalonians strength to accept Jesus and he gave Paul and his helpers the power to preach the good news of Jesus Christ our Savior.  All that is good is gift from God.