Payment of Prayer
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the context of the First Reading (Isaiah 45:1,4-6) the People of Israel were exiled - far from home. They were persecuted, discriminated against and they were forced to lay low. However, the huge mechanism of the imperial state and government they found themselves living under, did not crush their souls. They prayed quietly for deliverance. And then it came as a surprise.
The first reading from the Old Testament demonstrates that God can use whomever he pleases to be his instrument of salvation – even the pagan King Cyrus. God heard the prayers of His people. That is why it’s so important to pray for our legislators and those running for office that the unseen God will influence them in their conscience, and even surprise us even in office as the pagan King Cyrus did to the exiled Jewish People.
But even when they returned home, the Jewish people would once again find themselves once again exiled. This time in their own land that was controlled by the Roman Empire and its powerful military and propaganda machines. They was plenty of taxation, but with no representation, except by puppet kings and compromised religious leaders.
Into this arena steps Jesus. He does not entertain the question of paying civil taxes. Instead asking for the Roman coin used by Jews to pay taxes, He looks at the image fashioned on the coin with the inscription around it. The Image would be that of the Roman Emperor and the inscription would be the name of Caesar followed by his imperial office - of High Priest. In other words, the emperor and his money are portrayed as the chief lobbyists of an untouchable pagan high priest.
Christ simply says, not so. You can lobby and buy the emperor’s influence with money, but don’t dare to even think you can do the same with God. God has only one High Priest who lobbies for us, not with gold or silver, but with His Body and Blood, interceding for us before the throne of heaven. This is why the Eucharist is so crucial for us as Catholic Christians.
Through the Holy Mass, what Christ our High Priest began in Calvary 2000 years ago, interceding for us from His Sacrificial offering on the Cross, Our High Priest, Risen from the dead, continues to do so on our behalf before the throne of our Heavenly Father. His wounds still speak of the sins of human injustice and cruelty, of humanity’s disregard for the most vulnerable, especially an innocent child waiting to be born.
Christ’s words of intercession for us from the Cross when He lobbied His Heavenly Father on our behalf were “Forgive them, they know not what they do”. But today, we do know what we do, what we have done, what we have failed to do. Our hands are so often guilty of trading in the gold coins of bargaining and compromising.
As a people and as a nation, do we deserve to be forgiven of our sins, be they public or private, behind closed doors or pushed through the corridors of power? How many times, did Christ warn us to repent and in doing so, to prepare ourselves for the Kingdom of God.
That is why, it is so important that, before we approach Holy Communion with Christ our High Priest, we always examine our own conscience with humility and, like the thief who was caught with Caesar's money that did not belong to him, he hung on a cross beside Christ on Calvary and begged Our Lord to remember him, to intercede for Him.
Let us do the same, for ourselves, for our family and loved ones, and for our nation.