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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
Matthew 22:15-21

Last week we heard Jesus tell a parable about a wedding banquet for the king’s son.  There were many who were invited that, for one reason or another, chose not to come or even attacked the servants who invited them to come.

The Pharisees that we hear about in today’s gospel would be among those who rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  They “plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.”  They did not accept Jesus as God’s son.  Instead they look for ways to denounce him by getting him to say something that would lead others to reject and attack him.

This is not good.  The Pharisees were among those who had extensive education in the Jewish faith and customs.  The Jews were a chosen people and the Pharisees were supposed to be the “best” among them.  Yet, they reject Jesus.

Jesus is not deterred.  Last week we heard how, after those who had been invited to the banquet refused, the servants were sent out to invite whomever they found.  This is the gospel offered to the Gentiles.

While the Jews were a chosen people, this is not the first time that God has reached out to the Gentiles.  Our first reading refers to Cyrus as “his anointed.”  Here, “anointed” means that Cyrus has been specifically chosen by God for a particular mission.

For Cyrus, God has chosen him to bring the Israelites out of exile in Babylon and to return them to their own land in Israel.  God will also give Cyrus the task of seeing to the rebuilding of the temple.

In the scope of the stories we read in the Bible, this might seem normal.  We can read about numerous people in the Bible were chosen by God for a specific mission.  Moses was called to lead the people from slavery in Egypt towards the promised land.  David was chosen to become king.  Peter was chosen as the leader of the Apostles.  Paul was chosen to go on missionary journeys to bring the gospel to new people.

However, there is one big difference between Cyrus and the others I just mentioned.  They were all Jews.  Cyrus was not a Jew yet he is the one who would answer God’s call at that point in history.

Cyrus will do great things because God makes it possible even though Cyrus “did not know the Lord.”

Today we celebrate World Mission Sunday.  We will take up a second collection that will go to support young mission dioceses in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Latin America, and Europe.  Your generosity to the missions as well as your prayers are greatly appreciated.

We might tend to think of “missions” as something done in places where the gospel message has not been heard.  So, we think of remote parts of the world.  400 years ago, the United States was officially considered as “mission territory.”

If we think of missions as something done in remote lands, it’s pretty easy to think of missions as something done by a few people with a particular calling.  Among these are priests and religious but the laity also play an important part in such missions.  It begins not with teaching doctrine.  It begins with caring for the local people in their need.  It begins with showing them God’s love and our love.  Doctrine comes after love.

Now, I want to back up for a minute.  At the end of the list of lands I gave before was Europe.  We would hardly think of Europe as remote and the gospel message was taken there in the first centuries after Christ died for our sins.  How can it be “mission territory”?

I also mentioned that 400 years ago, the United States was officially considered mission territory.  We can thank people like the North American Martyrs who bought the gospel to the Native Americans in what we now call New York.  Since then, the gospel has spread across our nation to a point where the United States (along with Europe) was not considered mission territory.

However, while the church grew for years, today we are aware of the shrinking numbers in our churches.  It’s even worse in Europe.  Even fewer people practice their faith there and some are trying to remove Christianity from Europe’s history.  I suspect there are some Americans who would like to do the same.

So once again, our country needs to hear the gospel message.  I might sound like a broken record repeating myself because I have spoken about this before.  We need to learn more about our faith so we can live it and bring it to others but first we must show them God’s love.  This is our Mission, to share what God has given us with our neighbors and the whole world.

 

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