World Mission Sunday
for the twenty-ninth Sunday of the Year
Is 45:1 & 4-6a - 1 Thess 1:1-5b - Mt 22:15-21
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The Mission of Christ and the Church
Is 45:1 & 4-6a
Is 45:1, Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and ungird the loins of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed. 4, For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. 5, I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I gird you, though you do not know me, 6, that men may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.
We believe and know it: Jesus Christ is God's chosen one, he whom the Father sent to earth, for he is his own Son, and is but one God with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Certainly, we believe it and we announce it to the entire world: Jesus is God, the one true God! "Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully." (Mt 22:16) Let us not be afraid! The power of the Holy Spirit is with us to lead us into the whole truth (cf. Jn 16:13): the Holy Spirit who rests upon Christ also rests upon us to reveal that same Christ to all men of good will!
Today is World Mission Sunday, the day of the universal Mission of the Church! This Mission concerns all the men and women of the world: if we are Christians, and especially if we are Catholics, this Mission invites us to live out more truly our faith and hope, in a single charity; for two thousand years we have invited all the other men and women of the world to reflect and meditate on the existence and the life of the Roman Catholic Church, even if that life among men and through men is not as holy as it should be!
In this Sunday's first reading, the sacred Author speaks to us of the choosing, by God, of a certain Cyrus, the anointed one of the Lord. According to the context, it would seem that this Cyrus is none other than Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, who captured Babylon in the year 539 BC, thus announcing the end of the exile of the People of God. Thus, contemporary exegesis would have it that this passage, as well as part of the book of Isaiah, from chapter 40 to 66, was written by an unknown author, towards the end of the exile of the People of God in Babylon.
If we prefer to preserve the unity of the prophecy of Isaiah, and above all the unicity of its author, then it is clear that the sacred writer, who wrote in the eighth century before Jesus Christ, prophesied and announced a fact concerning someone who lived two hundred years later. It is altogether possible, and we willingly believe it. In any case, we can ask ourselves whether or not Isaiah had a vision precisely of Cyrus the Great and of his future action. There is no difficulty in answering affirmatively. But we think that Isaiah instead had a general vision of a liberator of the People of God, a person whose function is described by the name Cyrus, which, etymologically, means "sun", or rather "like the sun". That is, Isaiah had a vision of a person, an anointed one of the Lord, whose action was similar to that of the Anointed One par excellence, the Messiah, whom the Prophet Malachi called "the Sun of justice".
This prophecy by Isaiah is quite encouraging for all of the Church living today in the year 2008. For, if God, through the intermediary of King Cyrus the Great, watched over his People in the time of the Old Covenant, we can be sure that he still watches today, in the time of the New Covenant, over the People who are the Body of his only Son, who died and was resurrected out of love for all the men and women of the world! God ceaselessly watches over his Church: each day, the Lord strengthens the Mission of his Church in order that his Love for the world might be revealed and ever better known until the end of time!
1 Thess 1:1-5b
1 Thess 1:1, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalo'nians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 2, We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4, For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you; 5, for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
This Sunday's second reading relates the praises of the Apostle Paul for the faithful Christians of Thessalonica. Their faith, their charity, their hope, and all of their lives show the Apostle that God truly chose them to be his witnesses before the entire world! Is this not marvelous? Do we too not wish to receive such praise? Let us pray to God for such a grace! Let us ask Him for that favor and for the strength to become true apostles of Jesus Christ! Let us be witnesses of the gospel, in life and in death! May we receive one day, from God himself, this word of reward: "They report concerning us what a welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God." (1 Thess 1:9)
M 22:15, Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle him in his talk. 16, And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, «Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. 17, Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?» 18, But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, «Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19, Show me the money for the tax.» And they brought him a coin. 20, And Jesus said to them, «Whose likeness and inscription is this?» 21, They said, «Caesar's.» Then he said to them, «Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.»
In this time of worldwide financial and economic difficulty, we may ask ourselves what the Church can offer as a more or less long-term solution...
In certain periods of her existence, the Church, here and there, was rather wealthy and was able to give substantial alms to the poor. For example, at the end of the eleventh century, Odilo, abbot of Cluny, in France, ordered the melting down and selling of great quantities of sacred vases and jewelry in order to alleviate the famine that was taking place all around his abbey. Today, may each person do what is in his power. Or at least may each person be just to all, including to the government. That is what Jesus recommends: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Mt 22:21)
The Mission of the Church is accomplished through the exercise of all the virtues, including justice! Let us ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary for the grace to be ever faithful to the Mission the Lord confided to his Church: the proclamation of the gospel until the end of time!