Celebrate Sunday Mass - 10.22.23
OCTOBER 22, 2023 -- 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
10/22/2023 (1 month ago)
By Deacon Keith Fournier
My friends, brothers, and sisters in the Lord
In an Apostolic Letter entitled"The Lords Day" (Dies Domini),Pope St John Paul II gave a summary of the Christian understanding of Sunday, and underscored our obligation to honor the Lords Day. The Letter began with these words:
"The Lord's Day - as Sunday was called from Apostolic times - has always been accorded special attention in the history of the Church because of its close connection with the very core of the Christian mystery. In fact, in the weekly reckoning of time Sunday recalls the day of Christ's Resurrection. It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ's victory over sin and death, the fulfilment in him of the first creation and the dawn of "the new creation" (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world's first day and looks forward in active hope to "the last day", when Christ will come in glory (cf. Acts 1:11; 1 Th 4:13-17) and all things will be made new (cf. Rev 21:5)".
Sometimes, Catholics and other Christians refer to Sunday as a "Christian Sabbath". Though well intentioned, this is incorrect. Sunday is "the Lords Day". This apostolic letter cites the biblical sources and the writings of the early Church manuals and early Church Fathers. The readings for the Sunday Mass set a framework for us to reflect on throughout the coming week.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. We heard of how the Lord chose a pagan King, Cyrus, the King of Persia during the Babylonian captivity, to set the people of Israel free and empower them to rebuild the temple! This reminds us that the Lord's plan has always been for all men, women, and Nations to return to Him. The reading also reminds us that the Lord can, and often does, use political authority to accomplish His purpose. There is nothing outside of His plan.
The Psalmist David understood that the Lord's plan in choosing Israel, was to reach all Nations through Israel. "Sing to Yahweh, all the earth! declare his glory among the nations, his marvels to every people!" There is nothing outside of His dominion. Civil authority is itself given by God. All too often, civil authority is misused. But we should remember that Jesus told Pilate he would have no authority had it not been given to him from above. "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." (John 19:11)
In our second reading, the beginning of the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle greets the early believers and reminds them - and all of us - "...you have been chosen". We have been chosen by the Lord to be a part of His saving plan in our time as well. Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you..." (John 15:16) Do we believe this? Do we live our life differently because of it? We can. We should. It is the truth which can - and will - set us free. If we embrace it.
In the Gospel we heard we heard that the Pharisees had hatched another "plan" to try to get Jesus to say something which they could use to accuse Him of violating the Law of Moses - or the Roman Civil Law. The Jewish people were living under the unjust rule of the Roman Emperor and had to pay tribute or taxes to this ruler. If Jesus said NOT to pay the tribute, they could accuse him of being an insurrectionist. If He said yes, we must obey all civil law (including unjust laws) they could accuse him of somehow "selling out" to Rome.
The Lords response to this false dilemma reminds each of us that, although we are called to respect civil authority, we must remember the difference between what is owed to the State - and what is owed to God. The State does not enjoy absolute authority. Only God does. As Christian citizens we have, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, "...the obligation of rendering to the State whatever material and personal services are required for the common good." (Gaudium et Spes 75)
However, we are not required to obey unjust laws. In fact, unjust laws, for example, those laws that do not recognize the Natural Moral Law concerning the fundamental Right to Life, are not "law" at all. Saint Augustine said of an unjust law, "For it seems to me that an unjust law is no law at all." Saint Thomas Aquinas explained, "Human law is law only in virtue of its accordance with right reason: and thus, it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. And, in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence." In doing so, they both echoed Cicero, Aristotle and Plato and the entire Natural Law Tradition.
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, gave this explanation of how one determines whether a law is unjust, "How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law."
Our active participation in the social order is an opportunity for us to be the leaven and light which is needed in this current age. But we must exercise our citizenship in a morally coherent way, with a formed conscience, remembering that our first service and first obedience is owed to God who is the source of all authority.
Have a wonderful Lord's Day,
Deacon Keith Fournier, JD, MTS, MPhil
Dean of Catholic Online School
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