Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Homily 19 October 2008 Twenty Ninth Sunday of the Year A

Story of godson Joseph swallowing a quarter…

Today’s Gospel story centers around a coin, specifically the Roman denarius.

The Pharisees, overcome by greed and for power,
seek a way in which they can trap Jesus
and use His words to destroy His public image.

Passionate about covering their own tracks, they send their students to Jesus,
and even their approach to Jesus is inauthentic and shrewd.
They offer Him compliments in an effort to win Him over and appear trustworthy.
Instead they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, who come to make a fool of Jesus.

They ask: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their hearts, Jesus replies:
“Show me the coin that pays the census tax.
Whose image is this and whose inscription?”

The Pharisees point out the obvious: the coins of the empire bear the image of Caesar.

Jesus concludes the seemingly mundane dialogue over the census tax
with a much more profound statement:
“Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

It is important to focus on the theme of “image” in today’s Gospel.
As believing Israelite would have known,
every human person bears the image of God.
Even more, the Christian bears the indelible inscription that comes with Baptism.

The coin that bears Caesar’s image belongs to Caesar.
We who bear God’s image belong to God.

When Jesus says “Repay to God what belongs to God,”
He intends that we would offer, not the passing wealth of coins,
but our very selves, to Him, as a living sacrifice of praise.

Thus, the Church Fathers write:
“The image of God is not depicted on gold but is imaged in humanity.
And so, give your wealth to Caesar
but reserve for God the sole innocence of your conscience,
where God is beheld.”

We see in this teaching of Jesus the two realms in life: the temporal and the eternal.

The divine image within us binds us to Almighty God
and our true citizenship is in Heaven.
Yet we have a legitimate obligation to care for the world here and now
and to participate in public life as faithful citizens of our country.

Archbishop Charles Chaput recently published a timely book
titled Render unto Caesar
on the subject of living our faith in the public sphere.
In it he writes,
“We have obligations as believers [in God].
We have duties as citizens.
We need to honor both, or we honor neither.”

Because even the wealth we render to Caesar – to the State – is gift from God,
everything in the temporal realm as well must be used according to His will.
As Americans, in 17 days we will face a decisive moment:
a day on which we exercise our civic duty
and have a voice in our nation’s future.

As Catholics living in the United States,
we have an obligation to approach this important responsibility
with deep faith and a commitment to advancing the kingdom of God.

In their 2007 document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,
the U. S. Bishops lay out the truths that guide us
as we discern our participation in political life.

As we heard from the Fathers of the Church, we reserve for God our consciences,
that innermost sanctuary within us where we behold God
and hear His voice calling us to obey His law – a law we did not create –
to love with all our hearts, to do good and avoid evil.

Living, acting, or voting according to our consciences
does not mean following a “good feeling,” or a hunch, or taking a poll.

Instead, it means desiring to embrace goodness and truth,
learning the truth of God about the issues we face
and the facts about our choices
prayerfully discerning the will of God for our lives
and making a sound and prudent judgment.

The obligation to enter into the political process with a well-formed conscience,
in this particular historical moment, means three things:
First, our consciences must be formed according to God’s law
through prayer, and study of the Scripture and teachings of the Church.
Every Catholic family should have a Bible and a Catechism, and read them often.
As Bp. Murry told us, priests have an obligation to teach the faith in our homilies.
We cannot live without the Word that comes from the mouth of God,
and which is revealed to us in Scripture and Tradition.

Secondly, we must know God’s truth regarding the issues we face
and the Church’s moral principles.
As the bishops write, “There are some things we must never do…
because they are always incompatible with the love of God and neighbor.”
These things we call “intrinsically evil acts,”
for they are evil in themselves, regardless of circumstances in which they occur.

We have a moral obligation to always pursue the good and avoid evil.

In our time, the bishops call to our attention that
“abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity.”
and, furthermore,
“direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life,
such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos…
must always be opposed.”

There are many things that can broadly be called “life issues” –
genocide, , , poverty, health care.

What is more, there are certainly many issues that affect our nation,
as we face economic uncertainty
and as many young people are still fighting for freedom in far away places.

Yet, there is nothing so heinous as the
violation of the sanctity of a mother’s womb
the so called “mercy ” of the elderly,
or the creation and destruction of human persons for research.

Yes, there are many issues, but some are more significant than others.

We must avoid two temptations:
either to treat all issues with no moral distinction,
or to manipulate distinctions in order to justify ignoring the sanctity of life.

We must never forget that, as Pope John Paul II said,
“the common outcry…on behalf of human rights…
the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture –
is false and illusory if the right to life…
is not defended with the maximum determination.”

A unique threat to human life which we face now is a bill called the F.O.C.A.
Please read the insert in this week’s bulletin at Bishop Murry’s request.
and research the various candidates’ position on this legislation.

Finally, it is important to know where the candidates for both parties stand
on all the issues that face us as a nation.
It is simply not good enough to vote straight ticket because that’s what Grandpa did
or to vote without deliberation for one party
because the other has been previously disappointing.

God’s Word to us today…as well as the compelling situation we face…
as Catholics and as Americans…demands that we
know our faith…research our choices…and make sound moral judgments.

The choices we make next month will determine the course of our nation
and the kind of society we leave as an inheritance for our children.

By God’s grace, may it be a society where everyone…everyone…is loved!

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