World Mission Sunday
We love Jesus with all our heart and soul. We are immensely grateful for all the blessings our Catholic faith brings us, too numerous to count. We are the fortunate ones lucky enough to be born where we experienced the Christian message and were given the grace of the faith. This is not true of all places in the world. It is hard to believe, but there are peoples who for whatever reason have not heard the Good News of Jesus or even seen a copy of the Bible. There are other countries where Christianity is under pressure and Christians suffer for their faith and preaching the Gospel is not permitted. The Christian message is joyfully welcomed by those who need Jesus. But for some His message of love, justice and moral life is too challenging and they oppose it. We have an example of this in our Gospel today.
Our Gospel today, has religious Pharisees and Herodians challenging Jesus trying to catch Him out. They pretend to want His advice and wisdom regarding taxes. (When I filled in my tax return, I prayed for a little wisdom myself!). But these leaders want to trip Jesus up setting a trap which will bring rejection whatever option He chooses. If the Lord says “pay your taxes” the people who resent taxation will find fault with Jesus. If He says “you should not pay tax”, his questioners will report Jesus to the authorities and He will be arrested. Jesus asks them for a coin, the one they produce has Caesar’s head on it. Caesar’s head was on the coin with the inscription that he was the pontifex maximus, the High Priest and he saw himself as a god. Jesus tells them to give to Caesar what it Caesar’s and God what is God’s. They are confused and their plans have been foiled.
Jesus is not saying that there are two spheres that are alien to each other: one for Caesar (the secular world) and for God (the spiritual world). All is God’s made by Him and under His authority. Dictators have used the argument and the quote from today’s Gospel to try to silence the Church of Christ and its mission when it speaks for the voiceless and oppressed. These unjust rulers try to intimidate the Church and tell it to mind its own business, stay its side of the tracks and keep its religion to itself as a private devotion behind closed doors. To be intimidated and even threatened so that the unjust rulers have a free hand and the oppressed no advocate to defend them. The late and saintly Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helda Camara once said: “When I help feed the poor I am called a Christian, when I ask Why they are poor, I am called a troublemaker”. In the Gospels, we see that Jesus is irrepressible and publicly proclaims His Good News and so should we as His Church. Jesus was always out and about, walking, preaching, teaching, healing, encouraging, admonishing and ministering immersed in every aspect of people’s lives. The Lord’s outreach was universal and the Good Shepherd sought out every life especially those who had become lost or without opportunity. We know that Jesus came to bring humanity to a realization of how much God loves everyone equally and wants all to have eternal life. Our Lord constantly stepped over man-made barriers and put His love and life into the public forum much to the annoyance of the powerful religious leaders. Jesus stood up for the poor and oppressed and sought to establish His Kingdom of love, justice and peace.
Jesus called together His Church through whom He can work and speak. He wants us to remember that, like Caesar’s coin bore his image, we to bear the image of our God. At baptism we were reminded we are created in God’s Image. We are His icon. We are the Body of Christ in the world. We are here to represent Jesus in all places at all times. I love the image of the Kingdom of God when Jesus likens it to yeast which a woman mixes in with several portions of flour. The Kingdom, like yeast, is put in the mix and it influences the flour (the world around us) and transforms it, giving all new quality, flavour and increase.
Every day for us is an opportunity to take the yeast of God’s grace, love, truth, compassion and service to mix it in with those around us. Grace builds on nature. I have a favourite quote which is very appropriate for us on World Mission Sunday. It is from the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church in the Modern World: The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ (Gaudium et Spes 1.) We are not here to see ourselves safely to Heaven and leave the world to its own devices. This can be difficult for us because we find ourselves out of kilter with the world, especially in the area of morality. This Gospel today, teaches us that as Christians we give total and undivided loyalty to God and His Kingdom, and secondly a qualified loyalty to the world. We compliment and promote good government which uses its agencies to address our needs and cares for us in illness and time of want. For housing the poor and assisting the frail and vulnerable. But we also stand for the sanctity of life from the unborn to the old and terminally ill. We defend Christian Marriage and the dignity of the family. We fight to protect our children’s vulnerable minds from teaching in school that is contrary to the Gospel. We speak out if we feel a war is unjust.
As Jesus teaches us in John’s Gospel: we are not of this world but we are placed here for a purpose. We must point the world to Heaven. Jesus has entrusted us to be an example of faith holiness, love, compassion, joy and hope to those around us. If they ask why we are the way we are, we will gladly tell them of our love for Jesus. Where we see injustice we will not be afraid to speak out and side with the person who needs support. Jesus doesn’t ask us to set up a soap box and call out to folk, but He does expect us to allow our faith to inform our words and deeds bringing them to the conversation of life. Not to shy away when the opportunity arises. I remember when I was in my final year of studies, I was sent on a short hospital chaplaincy course. Our group was a mixture of denominations and some were in their first year of training. The doctor who was speaking clearly didn’t support the pro-life position of the Church. The doctor could see some of us were objecting to this and one said: “You Catholic are too idealistic; you need to come to terms with reality”. I was formulating my response, when a first year spoke out: “Doctor, I have listened to what you call reality, and it’s about time your appalling reality was influenced by a few ideals, for us the ideal is that all life from conception is sacred”. We all admired him for speaking out for what he believed. I don’t think his comment influenced the doctor but he had brought it into the conversation and that God will bless. Maybe he had planted the seed of truth. You never know. All God asks is that we give people an alternative, the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Each day, we may get the opportunity to play our part in God’s mission to the world. To give a little witness to Caesar. It’s for us to say a prayer for wisdom and courage, and gentleness of words and approach as we bring God’s values to those around us.
Finally, I am so pleased that our parish actively supports World Mission with our APF red boxes. We also have given generous support to Aid to the Church in Need, especially to our brothers and sisters in Beirut. I know these are difficult times, but please keep putting a little aside for us to keep up much needed support for people who depend on us. You will receive a great reward from God.
Fr. Gerard X