'All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community.' Sunday Reflections, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

 

'I die His Majesty's good servant - but God's first.' 
St Thomas More

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 22:15-21 (English Standard Version Anglicised)

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 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 you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.  Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

Readings for Ireland for World Mission Sunday.  John 17:11, 17-23 replaces the Gospel above. The other readings are the same.

The reflection below is based on Matthew 22:15-21;

Léachtaí i nGaeilge


World Mission Sunday

Here am I, send me (Isaiah 6:8).

Mission is a free and conscious response to God’s call. Yet we discern this call only when we have a personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his Church. 


A denarius from 44 BC showing the head of Julius Caesar and the goddess Venus [Wikipedia]

In the time of Jesus a denarius was a day's wage for an ordinary working man.


I spent three months in the latter part of 1982 working in a hospital in Minneapolis as a chaplain. I was one of seven doing a 'quarter' of Clinical Pastoral Education. One day I had to go to a bank and got chatting with an employee at the information desk. When he heard I was based in the Philippines he told me that in the previous elections in the USA he had considered, among other things, what impact his vote would have on the lives of Filipinos and others outside the USA.

I was very struck by his attitude. We never got into partisan politics nor did we discuss religion. The man was almost certainly a Christian, probably a Lutheran if he was from Minneapolis or a Catholic if from St Paul, the other 'Twin City'. I saw in him a person reflecting the teaching of Vatican II.

One of the major documents of that Council, Gaudium et Spes, addresses the political life of society. No 75 says: All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good. The Church praises and esteems the work of those who for the good of men devote themselves to the service of the state and take on the burdens of this office . . . 

All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community. It is for them to give an example by their sense of responsibility and their service of the common good. In this way they are to demonstrate concretely how authority can be compatible with freedom, personal initiative with the solidarity of the whole social organism, and the advantages of unity with fruitful diversity. They must recognize the legitimacy of different opinions with regard to temporal solutions, and respect citizens, who, even as a group, defend their points of view by honest methods. Political parties, for their part, must promote those things which in their judgement are required for the common good; it is never allowable to give their interests priority over the common good.

Robert Schuman in 1949



A politician of the last century who may be beatified one day is the Servant of God Robert Schuman, one of the founders of what is now the European Union. His politics of reconciliation in post-World War II Europe flowed from his deep Catholic Christian faith. Yet he was never an 'agent' of the Catholic Church. He was an embodiment of the vision of Gaudium et Spes, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in December 1965.

Incidentally, Robert Schuman, when Foreign Minister of France - he had been Prime Minister in 1947-48 despite having been born a German citizen in Luxembourg - said at a congress in 1950 to mark the 1,400th anniversary of the birth of Ireland's greatest missionary saint: St Columban, this illustrious Irishman who left his own country for voluntary exile, willed and achieved a spiritual union between the principal European countries of his time. He is the patron saint of all those who now seek to build a United Europe.

Robert Schuman's deepest identity was as a Christian. It was as such that he became a patriotic Frenchman and a visionary European. St Thomas More was one of the greatest Englishmen in the history of his country. However, he was His Majesty's good servant - but God's first. In 2000 St John Paul II proclaimed him patron saint of politicians and statesmen.

Jesus doesn't give us any detailed way of being involved in the political life of whatever country we belong to. But he gives us the values to live by. We cannot leave those values at the entrance to the polling booth or at the entrance to the legislative chamber if we happen to be elected to public office. Nor can we leave them at the door of the church after Mass on Sunday.

As voters and politicians Catholic Christians may have very different views on most matters of policy. But there are certain issues on which we must all take a Gospel stand. We may never advocate abortion or 'assisted suicide' or support the very new idea of 'marriage' between two persons of the same sex. As I prepare this it is reported that the Netherlands is about to legalise euthanasia for children under 12.

In 2013 a member of the Irish parliament who voted in favour of legalising abortion in certain circumstances was aggrieved when his parish priest told him that he could no longer be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. It is far more important to try to live as Gaudium et Spes teaches - All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community - than to be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion or a lector, important though these roles may sometimes be. But they are simply roles. No one has a 'vocation' to be either of these or to take on similar roles. But the Council tells us that each of us has a specific vocation within the political community.

Robert Schuman lived that vocation to the full. St Thomas More was martyred because he lived that vocation to the full.

Last week I quoted Fr Emil Kapaun, an American army chaplain who died in a prisoner of war camp in 1951 during the Korean war. I will end with that same paragraph as I think he was thinking of what today's Gospel is about.

In a broadcast in Japan on 21 April 1950 Fr Kapaun said: We can be sure to expect that in our own lives there will come a time when we must make a choice between being loyal to the true faith or of giving allegiance to something else which is either opposed to or not in alliance with our faith.

St Thomas More
Hans Holbein the Younger [Web Gallery of Art]


Extraordinary Form of the Mass

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

This Sunday, 18 October, is the Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost in the calendar that uses the TLM. The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 10-18-2020, if necessary).

Epistle: Ephesians 5:15-21; GospelJohn 4:46-53.

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The Month of the Rosary

The Virgin Showing the Man of Sorrows
Hans Memling [Web Gallery of Art]

Last May I updated a series of posts on The Rosary with the Great Artists. Here are The Sorrowful Mysteries.


Authentic Beauty

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.

Pope Benedict XVI meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel, 21 November 2009.

Vltava (The Moldau)
Performed by the Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Nejc Bečan

This youth orchestra is located in Slovenia. Smetana wrote this piece in 1874 when he was 50 and had lost his hearing. Here is his description of the work.

The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer's wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night's moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St John's Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the Vyšehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the Labe (or Elbe, in German).

The Vltava (The Moldau) in Prague [Wikipedia]

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