This past week, the political turmoil in our country has been like an episode in Designated Survivor, an American political thriller drama series. In the midst of a pandemic, we are having to deal with a political crisis to determine what our future will be like. Unfortunately, the people mostly affected, the citizens, are neither consulted nor have a say on the matter. We all just seem to be a pawn in this political dilemma which will have far reaching consequences in shaping our future and our country.
Political maneuvering and jostling are not unique to our times only. At the time of Jesus, it was very much played out by two groups of people – the Pharisees and the Herodians. The gospel this Sunday bears testimony to this political rivalry. The Pharisees, a religious group, opposed the Roman occupation of Palestine. The supporters of Herod, a political party, supported Herod Antipas and the policies instituted by Rome. Though these two groups held opposite political views and were bitter enemies, the Pharisees and the Herodians were now united, scheming to eliminate Jesus, who was by then getting the approval of the people. The plan was to trap Jesus on a question of paying Roman taxes. If Jesus opposed tax, the Herodians would charge Him with treason. On the other hand, if Jesus approved it, the Pharisees would charge Him as unfaithful to Judaism and averse to its hopes for independence from Roman occupation. Jesus now becomes a pawn in their political maneuvering.
Recognizing this plot to trap Him, Jesus replies ‘give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God’ (Mt 22:21). This response totally caught them by surprise, and they were defeated in their plan to get rid of Jesus. Jesus’ reply made clear that He had indeed come to establish a kingdom but not the type that Caesar was in charge of but a kingdom that transcends geographical boundaries and territories, space and time. As Christians, we belong both kingdoms but while we live in this earthly kingdom, our lives must be characterised and defined by values and goals of the kingdom of God.
Today we also observe World Mission Sunday with this year’s theme taken from the Book of Isaiah, ‘Here am I, send me’(6:8). The Church calls us to recognise and celebrate the essence and the nature of the Church. “The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she [the Church] draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father” (Vatican II, Ad gentes #2). Therefore, mission is intrinsic to the Church and that the Church must be the sacrament, sign, and instrument of the unity between God and His people.
‘To give back to God’ in the context of our Gospel and celebration today is to be part of the missionary mandate of the Church and to strive to fulfil it in the way God intends. In this mission, we can never be a pawn. God intends us to be primary ‘movers and shakers’ in making His mission a reality. But how?
In a book written many years ago by Dale Carnegie entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People, it touches on a core component of human interaction and building strong relationships. Being on mission is not about travelling to remote areas or breaking down doors or stuffing Jesus down the throat of others. It is about influencing others by example and allowing the Holy Spirit to take over.
Saying Yes to Jesus is the willingness to share my life in God with a colleague, friend, relative, etc, in small everyday interactions. But the truth is we shy away. We are more willing to speak about politics and gossip rather than share the good news, Jesus Christ. The desire to influence others with His message must be intentional – intentionally showing others what a life with Jesus looks like. We are the window to God’s kingdom and this is directly reflected through our actions, attitudes, and most of all, our words. Therefore ‘giving back to God’ in the light of our celebration today is the readiness to be His ambassador and to share Him proactively and unreservedly with others. When God calls you on this mission, will you like Isaiah also say…“Here I am Lord. Send me!”
29the Sunday in Ordinary Time
World Mission Sunday – 18 Oct 2020