Discerning True Intentions
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
As we begin todayís gospel, it may be time to stop and take a breath. We need to understand who and where we are. It is the twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary time. There are only five weeks left in the liturgical year. We have been in year A, and this gospel this year is Matthew. The main focus of Matthew is Jesus establishing the Kingdom of God. Starting on the first week of Advent which falls on November 27th, we will be focusing on the gospel of Mark. The main theme in that gospel is Jesusí suffering. So here we are near the end of the year in which we look at kingdom of God themes. Matthew also was written mostly to Jews.
The main focus of our gospel passage today is an interchange with Jesus and the Herodians. The Herodians as the name suggest are actually a political, as opposed to a religious, group. Therefore, like anyone who is focused on this life, they are highly focused of the temporal sphere as opposed to the eternal.
The Herodians are the supporters of the Herods and, in this case, we can assume specifically Herod Antipas. His most famous act, besides beheading John the Baptist is to mock Jesus and dismiss him to Pilate on Good Friday. The role of Herod is to keep the Emperor of Rome happy with the Jews. If the Emperor is Happy, Herod is Happy. If the Emperor is not happy, Herodís not happy. If the Emperor is happy and the Jews are not happy, Herod is still Happy. Think of General Jerulelski of Poland and his relationship with the Soviet Union.
The Herods were vicious people, vicious leaders. They were converts to Judaism and lived the faith at an extreme minimal level. Think of Sadaam Hussein as a Moslem. Those people who speak to Jesus are his supporters.
DICTATORS ALWAYS HAVE THEIR SUPPORTERS
Whenever there is a dictatorship, there are two kinds of people, those who benefit from the dictatorship and are, therefore, happy and those who donít and are, therefore, not happy. There are no dictators in this world, as vicious as they may be, who do not have a group who benefit from their dictatorial style. It was the same case with the Tories in this country during the Revolutionary War. This also happened in Papa Doc's Haiti, Idi Amin's Uganda, Trulillo's Dominican Republic, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Marcos' Philipines, etc. These people stayed in power by keeping the right people happy and oppressing everyone else.
The major concern at the time is that the Emperor will see Jesus' actions, which many believe are sowing the seeds of a coup of the empire, as a threat to his power. Caesar will not tolerate this. The result would be the Emperor is not happy and, therefore, Herod and his supporters will pay for the Emperorís unhappiness. They donít want to see this.
CATHOLICS ATTACKED BY POLITICAL GROUPS
This is also the same reality with the Church. Have you noticed that it is only the Catholic Church that has been treated viciously by universities, the media and certain government officials in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. No other church has suffered to the level that we have. Why? Because we pose a political threat to the powers that be, and they do not like that.
The Sendero Luminoso in Peru would kill priests and religious in the town square because they were outspoken to those who were most oppressed. The Sendero believed if priests and religious just made people feel good and gave them sacraments that should be left alone. However, the minute the gospel is truly preached, then the Guerillas became threatened and began their attack on the Church. The same happened in El Salvador, Soviet Russia, etc.
Jesus is posing a threat. The Herodians could care less about what He is teaching, but they do not want Him to upset the body politic. So they begin to test him. Understand, if he fails the test they will destroy him. They will not tolerate anyone who challenges their lifestyle or their power.
Look at what they say.
Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
That is nothing but a political way to communicate their intentions and they lie. They are testing him and they are testing him publicly. They do not believe a word they say. How can we tell? They refer to him as a truthful man, yet the are challenging him because they do not believe him to be a truthful man and they find him threatening. Had they believed in Jesus, they would not have said any of these words.
They are acting politically. Jesusí response is also political. Render unto Caesar what is Caesarís and render unto God what is Godís. He is taking their question and making a political statement. Give the political power his due and give God ...
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