I read the story of a phone call Father O’Malley received. It goes like this: Hello, is this Father O’Malley? Father O’Malley says, “Yes, It Is.” From the other side, “This is the IRS. Can you help us?” Father O’Malley, “Yes-I can” “Do you know a Ted Houlihan?” Father O’Malley, “Yes, I do” Is he a member of your congregation? Father O’Malley, “Yes, He is” Did he donate $10,000 to the church? Father O’Malley, “Yes, He will”
We are celebrating Mission Sunday. Mission Sunday invites us to reflect beyond our local church and see the mission of the universal church. Some give to the missions by going. Some go by giving. Mission Sunday is the day to reach out beyond the needs of the local Parish and diocese to assist missionaries as they go and tell in the young churches. The theme for the Extraordinary Missionary Month is: “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8). Pope Francis in his message for World Mission Sunday invites us to respond to our baptismal call to mission by saying, “Here I Am, Send Me.” Mission Sunday brings us together to celebrate our faith and support by our prayer and financially Pope Francis's mission.
If we listen to our media, there is a lot of questions about what is secular and what is sacred. Most of the time, we hear that we have to embrace one and hate other realities. We like to separate this world and the world to come. In reality, we cannot separate, it is a continuation. Both of the worlds give us privileges and responsibility. In the first reading from Second Isaiah, we see, God anointed Cyrus to carry out God's plan for the people of Israel. Israelites were in Babylonian exile. God called Cyrus for the deliverance and restoration of Israel. God said to Cyrus, I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God beside me. For Cyrus, anointing comes with responsibility.
The Gospel of Matthew chapters 21 and 22 bring a series of the controversial moment between Jesus and leaders of Israelites. In the Gospel passage for this weekend, we see Pharisees sending their disciples with the Herodians. Why did they go with Herodians? Herodians are the supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and they would favor payment of the tax; the Pharisees did not. Also, the people of Israel were against the payment of the tax to Romans. If they could find fault in Jesus, Herodians were the most suitable people to report to Roman authorities. So their question was, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If Jesus answers yes, people become against him and it will destroy Jesus’ influence among the people. If Jesus answers no, then, Herodians will report to the authorities. Jesus is not giving a yes or no answer; instead, he asked them to bring a coin and asked them "Whose image is this and whose inscription?" In a way, Jesus asked them to answer their own question. Jesus told them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
The coin belongs to Caesar. Then a question emerges, what belongs to God? Each one of us belongs to God. God created us in his own image and likeness. What should we do? We should engage in the “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope” as we hear in the second reading. St. Paul says, Holy Spirit is at work among the Thessalonians. They grew in three theological virtues. So St. Paul gives thanks to God for them.