Lectionary Readings of the day
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.