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Discerning True Intentions

By Fr. Robert J. Carr
Catholic Online

Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

As we begin today's 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 Jesus' 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, Herod's 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.


Whenever there is a dictatorship, there are two kinds of people, those who benefit from the dictatorship and are, therefore, happy and those who don't 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 Emperor's unhappiness. They don't want to see this.


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. Jesus' response is also political. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto God what is God's. He is taking their question and making a political statement. Give the political power his due and give God His due. Paul in Romans thirteen later defines this further when he says that political power is given through God's providence, therefore, one is serving God when one is obeying the political power.

Yet, do not forget how they do this, they are trying to make themselves appear sincere in front of the people. They do not want the people to feel they are trying to undermine Jesus, as they will revolt. So they do it in an underhanded, smooth and politically savvy way.


This whole conversation demonstrates what we call discernment. It is an essential tool when people are using a form of communication in which they are saying one thing and they intend another. One of my favorite examples and one of the reasons why I supported the Massachusetts Bottle Bill the 1980's was because of what transpired in the 1970's when the bottle bill first came up for a vote. There were many ads of how many glassmakers would lose their jobs if it passed. The minute the bottle bill failed, the soda makers came out with plastic bottles. We were lied to by these campaigns. I have learn about being politically savvy since.

We have to be aware of people's true intentions and how those intentions click with their words and deeds.

I had a discussion online with one of my previous parishioners over whether Cardinal Law was forced out or did he leave voluntarily. The reality is that he left voluntarily. He left because of the abuse crisis, but the reality is that he left because people wanted him out. He stood in the way of embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, abortion, etc. T.S. Eliot says "There is no greater treason than to do the right thing for the wrong reason." That is the political game.

Such people's hearts are not pure, they are rooted in self-centeredness and political games. They are not seeking after the common good, but their own good. They are succumbing to that part of the human heart that is vulnerable to evil.


You and I have to be aware that these realities exist or we will be taken in by them. Presently, for example there is a similar move to bring down the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles in the same way that the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston was brought down. Many say that this is the right thing to do, but wait, what is the true motive of those attacking Cardinal Mahoney? Are they seeking to strengthen the Church or weaken it? Their claims may not match their true intentions. Meanwhile, others are attacking Archbishop Sean O'Malley, Cardinal Law's successor, and calling people to prevent him from being Cardinal for his stand against gay marriage and abortion.

Did you notice everything centers around the office of Cardinal. It is the Cardinal that votes for the Pope. Change the College of Cardinals and you affect the Election of the Pope.


Paul teaches us to be wise with God's wisdom and to discern the spirits. Peter reminds us to be sober and alert that our opponent the Devil is on the prowl seeking the ruin of souls. If we are not wise we can be easily taken in by those who attempt to hide their true motives. They may seek to lead us to believe they are living in truth, when they are living a lie.

Go back and study the gospel passage of Jesus interaction with the Herodians. (Matt 22:15-21) Notice that these people are talking to Truth himself and attempting to hide their true intentions. They are so blind in their darkness that they can neither recognize Jesus for whom he is, nor themselves for whom they are not. They will do anything to protect their self-interests. They even try to convince those around them that their intentions are pure. I get a picture of sliminess with I see this.

We need to be people who see the world through God's wisdom or we will be done in by God's enemies. We need to be wise or we will be consumed by those who are really fools. We need to know our faith, we need to be obedient to our God and we need to be people who understand that being catholic is a way thinking, acting and living. It is not simply attending mass on Sunday.


The slimey have had their ways with Catholics for awhile. It is time to pray for the infusion of God's wisdom so that we may be free of their deception otherwise they will successfully ruin our souls as well as they ruined their own.

Today there is a belief that as long as someone is spiritual they are in God's graces. That is exactly what the Herodians would want you to think. Indeed, that same philosophy is the very reason for the Maccabean Revolt detailed in the Book of Maccabees. We follow the Truth, and there is a difference in truth between those who follow any spirituality and those who follow Christ. Jesus alone died and rose for us. Jesus leads us to the Father. Jesus calls us to repentance. Any other spirituality has some truth but not all. We need to be able to discern one from the other at all times.


Catholicism Anew MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Priest, 617 230-3300



Crisis, Jesus, Dictators, Discernment,

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