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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sunday Reading Oct 15/16th, 2011-- Taxation and Misrepresentation

The first reading in Isaiah, (45:1, 4-6) and the Gospel reading (Matt 22:15-21), both have to do with questions about governmental power over a conquored people. Isaiah is written during the time of the Babylonian exile, and in Matthew's time, the Roman government was the administration in power in the region of Palestine.

In Isaiah, the Israelites were hoping to be restored to their homeland, yet were in the position of living in a foreign country hoping for a change in emigration/immigration laws. The Lord, through the words of the prophet Isaiah, helps us to explore from a religious perspective the intellectual wrestling that comes from being a conquored people with the realization that the same power which first took them captive may be the very means for their liberation. Could this foreign monarch be the actual means of God's redemptive plan? A revolutionary thought for a montheistic people looking at a nation that did not worship only one God. Could King Cyrus (which means shepherd), be the instrument of the Lord, called by name by God Himself, even if Cyrus does not even know God's name?

The Jews looked back with nostolgia on the Davidic monarchy which at the time of Isaiah was the epitome of their own national history in terms of politcal autonomy. In captivity by a foreign king, what is the relationship between God and non-Jewish kings? If all power comes from God, and this man is the power-that-be, how is God using this man in salvation history? This reading sees minds stretching beyond the early selective localized prism of the Jewish salvation story, glimpsing inklings of a dawning more-global religious perspective and more integrated view of God's influence.

How can God's choice of this foreign power be justified? Isaiah says "to show that God is God alone, and there is no other." The Israelite prophets, though diverse, had one theme in common, and that was that there is one God who is creator rather than a plurality of gods running the universe. God is the one for whom all creation lives, moves and has its being. The Israelite people, through this Babylonian exile, experientially come to the realization that foreign kings are no exception. People that do not know God are also moved to action by God, whether they realize it or not. The Jewish people did end up being returned to the country from which they had been captured, and Cyrus was indeed the instrument of their peaceable return to their homes.

Several hundred years after that return, Jesus, in the Gospel, speaks as a prophet coming into a disordered world, to the Israelites, again a conquored people, conquored this time by the Romans. This time the Jewish people are ruled by foreigners but are not in exile. Essentially the same question comes up. Could the Roman authority and the sovereignty of God be reconciled, or were they mutually opposed? He comes up with a creative answer.

Jesus drew out of the crowd
(to present to crown-fishing Ceasar)
an Image untaxed nor withheld from musing Eleazar
and none too pensive to put in the saving of David

"Do we need to pay taxes to Ceaser?" is the question that the pharisees, the religious leaders use to test him. Jesus simply turns the question back on them--the money they hold has Ceaser's image, so why not give him back the portion he asks? He neatly sidesteps political intrigue or arguments regarding the legitimacy of the Roman presence in Palestine. The same story, if told in the present-day, might show Jesus sending a polemical person with a tax-bill in hand to pay their taxes rather than discussing taxation proposals, theories, or getting cornered into one unyielding political affiliation or another.

As with the Jewish people in the Babylonian captivity and the Jews of Jesus' time, there are many Christians, people of other faiths or no religious faith at all, in our own country and all over the world, that struggle with issues of how to live as good citizens and how to peaceably and effectively promote justice in their society, sometimes in the most difficult of situations. At times the questions may seem insurrmountable or the answers irreconcilable. In studying the Scriptures, much insight can be gained from both Jewish political and religious history as well as Jesus' ability to approach practical problems with creative answers, and, conversely, to approach intriguing problematics with practical solutions.

The second reading, from Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy to the early Christian community in Thessalonia going through difficult times of religious transition, is such an encouraging note, one that is timeless and appropriate communication for any group of faithful believers working with another group for peaceful solutions under any circumstances.

"We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for all of you, and constantly remember how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ. We know brothers, that God loves you... "



1 comment:

  1. I love Paul's acknowledgement of "faith in action". This is the core of Christ's teaching's. The Word made flesh. The Living Word is in deed that- Action. Coming alive by stepping up to the plate. The giving of self for others. Standing up for what is right despite the scorn of others.


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