29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Oct. 16, 2011)

Imagine yourself as a Jewish person living in Babylon during the Exile, which has now lasted 50 years. You’ve been wondering if and when you will ever be able to return to Israel, and who it is that will lead you back home. You’re convinced Yahweh has forgotten you. Then along comes a prophet we now know as Second Isaiah, who tells his fellow Israelites that they are finally going home, and he also tells them who will lead them!

Will it be the long-awaited Messiah? Nope. A new Moses? Nope. It would be the Persian emperor Cyrus! And Yahweh actually calls him his “Anointed One.” Holy smokes…an uncircumcised, non-Law-abiding, pagan Gentile! This was not good news…this message probably contributed to Second Isaiah’s martyrdom! The people just could not believe that a foreign king, who didn’t even believe in Yahweh, was going to be their new Moses.

We’re not much different. We’re fairly certain we know what to expect from God, and yet the message emerging from the readings this coming Sunday is that God works through everyone and everything, and is not in the least constrained by our expectations. God’s focus is building His kingdom, not our kingdom.

Paul had the same experience with the Thessalonians. Some wanted the Gentiles who followed Jesus to first convert to Judaism and then convert to Christianity. Paul said “No way!” As it turned out, the new Gentile converts engaged in just as many works of faith and love as their Jewish-Christian brothers and sisters. As I said, God works through everyone and everything, including the tax money in the Gospel.

The denarius, used to pay the tax, already belongs to Caesar. If Caesar wants it back, they’re obligated to return it to him. But he also reminds folks that everything, including Caesar, the denarius, and the people who use it already belong to God.

The lesson: there really is no such thing as “Mine!!!”

Be God’s smile for someone today!

herb yost reflections

Fr. Herb, C.S.C.

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