23 October, 2014

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity (A) - Worship

Matthew 22:15-22

Jesus said to them ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s’.
I believe that our current translation loses a great deal of meaning by abandoning the language used in the King James Bible. As many of you will know, in the Authorised Version this saying goes like this, ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.’ The word used is “render” rather than “give”, and render finds it origin in a word meaning ‘to give back’ something. So Jesus invites us to give back to the state that which belongs to it without grudging, while focusing on giving back to God that which belongs to him alone, our worship.

This saying must have been very poignant for the early Church at a time when many Christians were demanded to renounce their faith and to worship an image of the emperor under the threat of death. Yet, up to our days thto God the things that are God’s’ demand us to worship God with perseverance, not in a woolly, when-I-can-be-bothered sort of way, but in a serious and committed sense.
is saying should remind us of the correct ordering of our civic and religious duties. 
For too long we have looked at this saying as some sort of justification for our spiritual sloth; giving to the emperor is fulfilled by paying taxes; while giving to God by some sort of lukewarm worship and occasional attendance to church services. In reality, to render ‘

Worship is not something that we just do once a week, it demands commitment in every aspect of life. Praying daily is worshipping God. Visiting that person in difficulties and giving generously to the Church is worshipping God. Taking good care of spouse, family, neighbours, and of that person whom we find really annoying is worshipping God. Holding on tight to the Cross of Jesus, uniting our distress to his, every time we suffer wrong or pain is worshipping God. Giving joyfully for the relief of the needy is worshipping God. Approaching the sacraments as often as possible, and in particularly Holy Communion, is worshipping God. Giving workers a liveable wage and campaigning for equality, even though many Christian brothers and sisters would disagree with us, is worshipping God. Working for a fairer society transformed by the Love of God, is worshipping God. Through all these examples we offer true worship and we render to God that which is due to him.

One of the Eucharistic prayers that I often use celebrating Mass puts at the very centre of our Christian life a plea to God the Father that he would help us to worship in the all-encompassing way I have just described. In this prayer, as we render ‘to God the things that are God’s’, as we offer to Him all that we are and all that we have ever received in the Eucharist, as the Body and Blood of Christ are present on the altar as a gift received from God and as an offering to Him, the priest says,
Lord of all life,
help us to work together for that day
when your kingdom comes
and justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth.

Jesus said to them ‘Render unto Emperor the things which are Emperor’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
At the end of our gospel reading we are told how Jesus’ opponents react to this saying. The Pharisees and those who accompanied them leave in amazement, they do not leave in anger or frustration; we are told that ‘they were amazed’ (22).
The Pharisees expected a Messiah who would revolt against the Roman occupation. Yet, they find in Jesus something which they did not expect or thought possible. Jesus shows himself as another type of Messiah, someone who wishes his followers to engage with human societies and to transform them through their presence. Earlier in Matthew we are told that the Apostle Peter had an even stronger reaction when Jesus prophesied his own death – Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him, because he too was expecting a Messiah who would free Israel from its military oppressors.

The Pharisees come to Jesus trying to catch him out and they leave in amazement having seen a glimpse of the mission entrusted to the followers of Jesus – we are invited to redeem and radically transform the world from within, not through force or bloodshed, but through worshipping God in everything that we do with perseverance, daily rendering to God what is duly his – that is, our life. 
Jesus said to them ‘Render unto Emperor the things which are Emperor’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

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