Books by Bishop Michael Callahan


Lectionary Readings of the day

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the gates unbarred: For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other.
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Homily — Navigating Earthly Demands, Upholding Divine Allegiance

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we gather on this 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, our readings call us to reflect deeply on the interplay between earthly authority and our divine calling. These sacred words bridge the cultures of the New Testament age with the challenges we face in our modern world. Today, we also acknowledge the profound truth that our ultimate allegiance is to God alone, a principle that carries immense significance, especially in light of recent events.

In our first reading from the book of Isaiah, we encounter the mysterious figure of Cyrus, a pagan king chosen by the Lord for a divine purpose. The prophet Isaiah declares, “Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus…” (Isaiah 45:1). This narrative reminds us that God’s providence operates through unexpected vessels and secular rulers, a truth that resonates throughout history.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we find ourselves in the midst of a dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees. The Pharisees, in their attempt to ensnare Jesus, question Him about paying the census tax to Caesar. Jesus responds with profound wisdom, saying, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21). His words resound as a timeless call for us to discern our earthly duties and heavenly obligations.

But, beyond the timeless wisdom of Scripture, we must also address a pressing issue that unfolded in our recent history. In 2020, our government imposed severe and, some argued, unconstitutional restrictions on church attendance during the pandemic. These restrictions left many of us bewildered, as we saw large stores, sporting events, and liquor stores permitted to remain open while our churches were shuttered. It was a moment of challenge and reflection for our faith.

During those trying times, the Apostolic Western Orthodox Church, in line with the unwavering commitment of our faith, refused to comply with what we perceived as ungodly demands. We stood firm, echoing the words of St. Peter when he declared, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Our actions were rooted in the understanding that our ultimate allegiance is to God alone.

In our journey through Christian history, we find the wisdom of the early Church Fathers. St. Cyprian of Carthage, in the face of persecution, said, “The world is going mad in mutual extermination, and murder, considered as a crime when committed singly, is called a virtue when it is done en masse.” This quote reminds us that history is marked by moments when the Church had to assert its allegiance to God above all else.

As we reflect on these challenges, let us be reminded that we, as a Christian community, have faced and will continue to face moments when we must stand resolute in our faith. Just as the early Christians did, just as Maximus did in our previous story, we too may encounter situations that demand we choose God over earthly authorities.

In conclusion, let us remember the profound words of Jesus: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” May we always navigate the complexities of our world with faith, unwavering commitment, and a profound respect for the divine authority that transcends all earthly powers. May we hold fast to the truth that our ultimate allegiance is to God alone.

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