Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
October 22, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.







Almighty ever-living God,
grant that we may always conform our will to yours
and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Is 45:1,4-6 

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the gates unbarred: For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1,3,4-5,7-8,9-10 

R/. Give the Lord glory and honor.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds. R/.

For great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
awesome is he, beyond all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are things of nought,
but the LORD made the heavens. R/.

Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
give to the LORD glory and praise;
give to the LORD the glory due his name!
Bring gifts, and enter his courts. R/.

Worship the LORD, in holy attire;
tremble before him, all the earth;
say among the nations: The LORD is king,
he governs the peoples with equity. R/.

Second Reading 1 Thess 1:1-5b 

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

Alleluia Phil 2:15d,16a 


Gospel Mt 22:15-21 

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.  They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?"  Knowing their malice, Jesus said, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  Show me the coin that pays the census tax."  Then they handed him the Roman coin.  He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?"  They replied, "Caesar's." At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."

Catena Nova

Our Lord asked for a coin and then enquired whose image was on it. For very different from the image of God is the image of the world. That is why Paul warns us: Since we once bore the image of the earthly one, let us bear also the image of the heavenly one. Christ, being God’s image, does not bear the image of Caesar…. But if Christ did not carry Caesar’s image, why did he pay the tax? I reply that he did not pay it out of what was his, but simply gave back to the world what belonged to the world. And you, too, if you do not want to owe anything to Caesar, do not have possessions that pertain to this world. But in fact, you do have money, and you do owe tribute to Caesar. If truly you desire not to be under an obligation to any earthly king, give up all that you have and follow Christ. (St. Ambrose of Milan)

So beautifully does Christ here indicate, the middle way, between not caring for the things of the world, on the one hand and the offence of injuring Caesar, on the other, that He proves the perfect freedom of minds, however devoted to God, to discharge all human duties, by commanding them to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s….But all of us, are always bound to render to God the things that are God’s that is, our body, our soul and our will. These things we hold from Him, for He is our Creator. It is, therefore, just and right that those who acknowledge that they owe to Him their being, life and preservation, should render to Him, all that they are and have. (St. Hilary of Poitiers) 

When you hear this command to render to Caesar the things of Caesar, know that such things only are intended which in nothing are opposed to religion; if such there be, it is no longer Caesar’s but the Devil’s tribute. And moreover, that they might not say that He was subjecting them to humans, He adds, “And unto God the things that are God’s” (St. John Chrysostom).
We are made in the “image and likeness of God.” So you, O Christian, because you are a human being, are God’s tribute money—a little coin bearing the image and likeness of the divine emperor. Therefore with Christ I ask, “whose likeness and inscription is this?” Your answer is, God’s. To which I reply, Then why not give God what belongs to him? If we really want to be God’s image, we must be like Christ, for his is the image of God’s goodness and “the perfect copy of his nature,” and God “foreordained that those he has chosen should take on a likeness to his son.”….Those therefore who resemble Christ in their lives, conduct, and practice of the virtues, they are the ones who truly manifest the divine image; for the way to recover this image is by being absolutely just. (St. Lawrence of Brindisi).
A man or woman may have to die for our country: but no one must, in any exclusive sense, live for their country.  Those who surrender themselves without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class are rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself”(C.S. Lewis).
I know from my own experience that in the last twenty years, the world has moved a very long way towards conformism and passivity.… with the America which I used to know as a rather articulate, critical and vociferously independent place. It is certainly not so any more. Not that the people do not complain and criticize, but their complaints and criticisms, indeed their most serious concerns, seem to be involved in trivialities and illusions–against a horrifying background of impending cosmic disaster. It seems to be that for all our pride in our freedom and individuality we have complete renounced thinking for ourselves. What passes for ‘thinking’ is mass-produced, passively accepted, or not even accepted. We simply submit to the process of being informed, without anything actually registering on our mind at all.… For twenty centuries we have called ourselves Christians, without even beginning to understand one tenth of the Gospel. We have been taking Caesar for God and God for Caesar (Thomas Merton).
Everything belongs to God, because humans are created according to God's image, not Caesar's, and because God is Ruler overall earthly kings. Kings think they are sacral powers and claim divine attributes; Jesus demystifies this sacrality. God alone is Lord and earthly rulers at most receive a divine stewardship under which they are to ensure political order by God's commission. For realizing this Christians will pay a bloody price. Yet Jesus does not pursue the question of the legitimate or exaggerated claims of worldly authorities. The only thing that really matters to him is that God receive all that is owed him, which is indeed everything, whether natural or supernatural. Where worldly power rises in rebellion against this “everything”, a rebellion that goes far beyond political matters, Jesus and those who stand with him will resist that rebellion (Hans Urs von Balthasar).


Politics and religion.  Throne and altar.  Church and State.  The stuff of which wars are —and still are — made.  The proverbial pair prohibited from polite company.  God and Caesar, after all, do make strange bedfellows — and from what I can tell, it's religion that usually ends up playing the harlot.  But don't think the days of Cuius regio, eius religio — "The ruler's religion is the people's religion — is something left to the Middle Ages.  Theocracies exist today in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, and Afghanistan and, if you want to quibble, Vatican City!  But that tendency to enlist religion in the service of a political agenda or party is alive and well in a lot more places than that, often where authoritarian regimes are in power.  To wit, the spectacle of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Kirill's, cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin.  Or what you might call the "dangerous liaisons" between religious backers of governments in Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia and, at least lately, Poland.   Then there are the Hindu nationalists of India and their Christian, so-called, counterparts in the United States. 
And now that election season is upon us, voters whose conscience is informed by more than their bottom line — always Caesar's top priority — will be faced, as always, with moral issues that arguably "belong to God."  And whether a Democratic or Republican or Independent voter, no party can lay claim to being the only choice for the “Catholic vote” — which no longer exists anyway — or for holding the moral high ground exclusively.  The point being what we render unto Caesar cannot be separate from what we render unto God (cf. G).  Our political choices, our membership in social and political organizations, our part in shaping the economy, our entrance into public debate — all these have moral consequences for which we are responsible before God as citizens of this, or any other, country.  The mantra "religion should stay our of politics" poses a false opposition, and is something very different from religious institutions or leaders attempting to pull the levers of the body politic from behind the scenes seeking to hold sway in a given society to the exclusion of others' voices.
But is the supposed opposition between God and Caesar real?  Or imagined?  After all, Caesar's main responsibility is for the common good.  Political power exists for no other reason than to ensure a just ordering of society.  When Catholic social teaching affirms, among other things, the dignity of the human person as the overarching priority in matters political, social and economic, it is simply reminding Caesar of how the things of God ought to be aligned with the interests of the state — though in our time Caesar can no longer operate only in the interests of a particular country.  Like it or not, we live in a global society.  No country is an island unto itself, no matter how loudly isolationist drums beat.
For example, Pope Francis in his latest teaching on the environment has this to say:
If we consider that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries, we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact. As a result, along with indispensable political decisions, we would be making progress along the way to genuine care for one another. (Laudate Deum; October 4, 2023, no. 72)
So yes, it's God's world that Caesar must care for or we will all perish together.
 But no matter how complex social issues might get, even for the conscientious, be sure when Jesus’ preference for the poor and the outcast began to irritate the rich and powerful, when his preaching of God’s reign began to threaten the social order, when his gospel brought him into mortal conflict with the politics and religion of his day, he gave to God what was God’s.  So in the end, the Phar­isees and the Herodians, who plotted how they might entrap him (G) -- they who bene­fitted from Roman occupation – could tolerate him no longer.  And the moment came when a decision was made for God or for Caesar.  And when those same religious leaders shouted out on Good Friday, We have no king but Caesar, the choice was clear.
Such treason should give us pause as well to examine our own pledges of allegiance.  For, in fact, we can have no king but Christ.  And even if the occasional Cyrus comes along who renders to God  — and I don't mean the current leader of a major political party — there remains only one Messiah to whom we look to save us.  And as we gather here to pray God’s kingdom come on earth as in heaven, and to promote kingdom values so often opposed to the world’s, going forth from this assembly to glorify the Lord by our lives, ours will always be a different kind of life, one modeled after Christ the Lord, for there is no other (I).  Who lives and reigns, forever and ever.  Amen.

Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For us gathered here in communion with Christian communities throughout the world: that by tasting the goodness of the Lord that comes to each one in the body and blood of Jesus, we may receive from him a fresh view of our neighbor and be made witnesses to generosity in the world in which we live.

For the grace of discernment: that we may recognize the various motives in our hearts and respond to those that come from the Holy Spirit.

For Wisdom: that God will guide us in being faithful citizens without compromising our discipleship and service of God.

For all who will be voting: that the Spirit of God will help them recognize the critical issues before them and guide them in applying the Gospel messages in their choices.

For the conversion of our hearts: that the false gods of power, prestige, pleasure, and security may be dethroned so that the God of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and justice may receive our service.

For all government officials and employees: that they may wisely use their offices to promote justice and the common good.

For civic leaders in places of unrest, especially Israel and Palestine: that God will inspire their efforts to communicate, guide them in establishing just policies in their communities, and help them recognize the d\giftedness and dignity of each person.

For conversion from violence: that the Spirit of God will impel us toward resolving conflicts through dialogue and mutual cooperation.

For all recovering from war and natural disasters: that God will give them strength, a spirit of hope, and a supportive community so that they may rebuild their lives.

O God, whose image we bear and whose name we carry, yours is the world and all it contains. Recall us to our true allegiance, so that above the powers and rulers of this world you alone may claim our fullest loyalty and love.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Offertory Anthem

Tell me whose likeness you see thereon!

They said to him: “Tis Caesar’s!”

Then said Jesus unto them:

Give unto Caesar what is his by right,

and God, what God is due!

Communion Antiphon

Closing Hymn

Go rebuild My temple
Build with living stones
Build on the faith of the fathers
Build with Jesus as the cornerstone

Build strong with love and with kindness
Build with the pearl of great price
Beyond all worth
Build with the beauty of forgiveness

With heavenly splendor on the earth

Go rebuild My temple
Build with living stones
Build on the faith of your fathers

Build with Jesus as the cornerstone
Build with Jesus as the cornerstone