Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
October 15, 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,
one 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

Everywhere we attempt to be first to bring taxes and levies to those appointed by you, as we were taught by Christ. For at that time when some approached him they asked him if taxes had to be paid to Caesar, and he answered ‘tell me whose image the coin has’ and they said ‘Caesar's’, and again he answered them, “then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Whence, while we worship only God we serve you joyfully in other respects, acknowledging you as kings and rulers within the human sphere and we pray that you are found to have prudent discernment along with the kingly power. And if you will take no heed of our praying and putting everything in the open we will not be harmed at all; but rather we believe and have been convinced that each of you will pay  penalties in the eternal fire according to the worth of his actions; and in proportion to the capabilities which he received from God an account will be required, as Christ indicated saying: ‘To whom God gave more, more also will be required of him’ (St. Justin Martyr).

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).

Oh humanity! why do you despise yourself so, seeing that you are so precious to God?   And why do you demean yourself in this way when God honours you by Christ’s birth in our flesh?  Why search out how you were made and not enquire what you were made for?  Was not this whole dwelling, this world that you see, made for you?  For your sake, light spreads abroad and causes darkness to fade; for your sake, night is ruled and day measured;  for you, heaven shines with the varied splendours of sun and moon and stars; for you, the earth is spangled with flowers, trees and fruits;  for you, was created this amazing mass of animal life, in the air, the fields, the loveliness of water, so that no dismal solitude should spoil the new world’s joy…. Besides this, the Creator seeks out what else He can add to your dignity – He sets His image within you (Gen 1:27) so that your visible image, might make present upon earth, the invisible Creator and, to you, He entrusts the care of earthly goods, so that so vast a domain as this is, should not be lacking a representative from the Lord. … And what God accomplished in you by His power, He graciously assumed into Himself – He wanted to be truly manifested in the man in whom, hitherto, He had only appeared in image. He enabled us to become in reality what had only been a mere likeness before. …  And so Christ is born, to restore all its integrity to fallen nature (St. Peter Chrysologus).

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.” Christ undoubtedly gave Caesar what was Caesar’s and God what was God’s. He fulfilled to perfection the precepts of both tablets of the law, becoming “obedient unto death, even death on a cross,” and he was most highly endowed, both inwardly and outwardly, with every virtue....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. “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”; that is, give each what belongs to him (St. Lawrence of Brindisi).

A man or woman may have to die for their country; but no none 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 belong to God: themselves (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. So long a way that the distance is, to me, both frightening and disconcerting. I have been all the more sensitive to it because I have spent this time in the isolation of a contemplative monastery, and have only recently come back into contact … 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).


Caesar’s Palace

            Politics and religion.  The stuff of which wars are made.  The proverbial pair of topics prohibited from polite company.  And hardly avoidable. As I noted a few weeks ago, observant Catholics are as polarized around various issues as the main political parties are with various clergy suggesting there is really only one way to vote faithfully – with Mass-goers evenly split in support of the two presidential candidates. Stepping into the fray, whether intentionally or not, Pope Francis has issued a timely encyclical – Fratelli tutti – that addresses a host of pressing issues facing the world.  And in typical fashion it has received a tepid response from the more conservative wing of the church with its one-issue focus that does not share Francis’ priorities -- while the document is being hailed by the church’s more progressive types that see in him a champion of many of their concerns. In one passage that leapt out to me in a chapter “on a new kind of politics,” the pope writes

At a time when various forms of fundamentalist intolerance are damaging relationships    between individuals, groups and peoples, let us be committed to living and teaching the  value of respect for others, a love capable of welcoming differences, and the priority of the dignity of every human being over his or her ideas, opinions, practices and even sins. Even as forms of fanaticism, closedmindedness and social and cultural fragmentation proliferate in present-day society, a good politician will take the first step and insist that  different voices be heard. Disagreements may well give rise to conflicts, but uniformity proves stifling and leads to cultural decay. May we not be content with being enclosed in  one fragment of reality (no. 191).

            Given the sweeping number of issues the encyclical addresses, there is no sign Francis himself is content with “one fragment of reality.”  I wish the same could be said of his church-going flock.  I daresay few regular churchgoers, no matter their voting patterns, are apprised of the wide range of Catholic social teaching the encyclical rehearses. Ironically, those among the devout who are so quick to condemn “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose what they believe according to taste are often the same people who pass over the items found in the pope’s smorgasbord of magisterial teaching, including the treatment of refugees and immigrants, the poor, and the environment.

            Again, this is not about being a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent.  No party can lay claim to being the only choice for the “Catholic vote.”  The point is our Christian faith ought to inform our political decisions: What we render unto Caesar cannot be separate from what we render unto God (cf. G). Our contribution to society, whether in the form of taxes, through 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.  And they all rest on the twin pillars of Catholic social teaching, namely, the dignity of the human person and the priority of the common good over merely individual interests.

            Oh, I realize we live in a highly complex and imperfect world.  And there’s no way to avoid the untidiness and ambiguity of living in such a world. Even Jesus paid taxes to the Roman emperor who oppressed and abused the Jewish people. Perhaps he realized, like Isaiah, that God can use pagan kings, as with Cyrus of old, to achieve purposes that appear providential, such as unexpectedly allowing Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple destroyed by the Babylonians. (I know how some Evangelicals have compared Donald Trump to Cyrus so they can justify overlooking the president’s moral failings in favor of measures he has taken in support of their concerns – the latest nominee for the Supreme Court being a prime example.)

            One Evangelical leader, however, isn’t buying it. Writing for one of their premier publications, Christianity Today, Daniel Block of Wheaton College says this:

 ....biblical history suggests that no matter how and why we cast our vote for a particular candidate, Democrat or Republican, we must never allow ourselves to become blind to their personal and moral flaws. According to the Bible, leadership is more than effectiveness; it’s also (and, in fact, primarily) a matter of character (October 29, 2018)

            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 these religious leaders shouted out on Good Friday, We have no king but Caesar, the choice was clear.

            Such treason gives us pause to examine our own pledges of allegiance.  For, in fact, we can have no Sovereign but Christ.  And we are gathered here to pray God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, and to promote kingdom values which are so often opposed to the world’s.  And when we go forth from this assembly it’s to witness a different kind of life, one modeled after Christ who is Lord, for there is no other (I).  Amen.




For the church, that the Gospel may be preached in her assemblies with power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

For the nations, that God may raise up leaders truly like Cyrus, grasping their right hand, giving them light and power to make decisions for life, justice, morality, and peace.

That we may live justly, giving to Caesar what is Ceasar’s, but that we may remember that there is no other God than the Father of Jesus, and give Him the glory of lives in which He is truly the Lord.

For our school children, that their teachers may be truthful models of God’s integrity who have their best interest at heart..

For the sick, the elderly, the unborn, the handicapped, and all who give us the chance to be compassionate because of their weakness, that we may not lose hearts that are sensitive and respectful of all life.

For our faithful departed, who labored in love and showed endurance in the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they may now be rejoicing with Him in heaven.

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.

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!

Lord’s Prayer

Seeking to render unto God what is God’s, we pray as Jesus taught....

Spiritual Communion (BCP)

In union, blessed Jesus, with the faithful gathered at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are offered this day, I long to offer you praise and thanksgiving, for creation and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption won for us by your life, death, and resurrection, for the means of grace and the hope of glory.  I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and, since I cannot at this time receive communion, I pray you to come into my heart. I unite myself with you and embrace you with all my heart, my soul, and my mind. Let nothing separate me from you; let me serve you in this life until, by your grace, I come to your glorious kingdom and unending peace. Amen.

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