Homily — 29th Sun. OT A Oct. 19, 2008

Homily – 29th Sun. OT A                Oct. 19, 2008

As the big election gets closer and closer, the Church this Sunday gives us in the Gospel this familiar saying of Jesus to reflect on:  Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.

Caesar and God, Church and State — two things that have had an interesting relationship from the beginning.

I’m reminded of a story I heard about two brothers who were long time politicians, and who were both infamous in their city for their corrupt practices and ties to organized crime.

One of the brothers died, and although neither of the two had stepped foot in a Church for years, the brother of the deceased went to see Father O’Malley, of St. Mary’s the biggest Church in the City, to arrange a Funeral Mass.

The brother said to the priest “Father, I want you to get up in the Pulpit at the Funeral, and say to everyone that my brother was a saint.  If you agree to do that, I’ll give a $100,000 donation to your Church.”

Father O’Malley, thinking of the moral ramifications of doing such a thing, but thinking also of all the bills he could pay with the donation, prayed about what he should do.

Finally, he said “OK, I’ll do it.  Give me the $100,000 up front, and you have my solemn word that at your brother’s funeral I’ll say in my sermon he was a saint.”

So the day of the Funeral arrives and the Church is packed.  After the Gospel, Fr. O’Malley gets up in the pulpit and begins his Sermon.

“My brothers and sisters” he says, “we all know well the kind of man this man in the casket before us was in life.  We all know that throughout his life, this man was . . . .a thug, a lying cheat, a leech on the taxpayers, and a crook . . . .

“But, compared to his brother here, he was a Saint!”

Over the past 2000 years, since it’s very inception, the Catholic Church has had to coexist and interact with the State, and the State has had to coexist and interact with the Church.

Even at the Birth of Jesus, the Angels had barely finished singing Glory to God in the Highest when Three Kings are seen kneeling before the manger in homage; while another King, King Herod, sends out soldiers to destroy the baby Jesus and His Kingdom by massacring all males 2 years and under.

But Herod failed to destroy Christianity, as did Nero and the other Roman emperors fail to destroy it, as did the Barbarian Rulers of the Dark Ages fail, as did the French Revolutionists in the 18th Century, Napoleon Bonaparte in the 19th Century, and  Hitler, Stalin and the Masonic government of Mexico in the 20th Century fail to destroy the Catholic Church.

On the other hand, there have been many other Governments that have been good, even very good, to the Church down through the centuries; governments that haven’t hindered and even at times helped the Church in her mission of Preaching the Gospel to all nations.

As Baptized Christians, each one of us has a dual obligation towards Caesar and God, Church and State.   We in a sense have dual citizenship, we pledge allegiance to the flag of our country, and to the Republic for which it stands, and we also pledge allegiance to the Papal Flag and to the Catholic Church for which it stands.

We obey the law of our Country, and pay taxes to Caesar, and we obey the law of Christ and pay tithes to our Parish and alms to the poor.

And our Catholic Faith doesn’t get in the way of our being good citizens or even good civil servants of the country we live in, for our Faith tells us to live morally upright lives, to pray for those in authority, and to honor and obey all the just laws of one’s country.   In doing all these things just mentioned, we are fulfilling Jesus’ command to Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

But we are sometimes called as disciples of Christ to respectfully speak out against unjust laws or unjust legislation put forth by the State, and to work for the overturning of these unjust laws for the good of our country.  And if ever we are faced with a situation where our Faith commands us to do one thing, and an unjust law of the State commands us to do another thing, we cannot in conscience go against our faith by obeying that unjust law.  As St. Peter says in the Acts of the Apostles, in some circumstances We must obey God rather than man, for we must at all times Render unto God what belongs to God.

At  every celebration of Mass throughout the world, the Church in the Prayer of the Faithful prays for Civil Leaders, faithful to St. Paul’s command in 1 Tim. 2 that Prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered . . . .for rulers and for all in authority.

May we join our prayers of petition and thanksgiving to the Church’s prayers of petition and thanksgiving for our government and its leaders, and may Jesus give us the graces we need to be faithful citizens of both our Country and our Holy Catholic Church.

(That way, Fr. O’Malley will really have good things to say about us at our funeral!)

Comments are closed.