OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel
Isaiah 45:1, 44-6
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Giving Back to God and Caesar
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). For some politicians and rulers this verse ranks among the most popular verses in the Bible. Until a few years ago, Nigeria was under a military dictatorship. The military succeeded in disorganising the labour union and the academic elite. The only viable resistance left was the church. The Bishop’s Conference issued fearless and incisive statements denouncing the dictatorship. The military often replied by quoting this passage and accusing the church of interfering in politics. Didn’t the Bible say to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s — meaning the whole sphere of civil, economic and social affairs — and to God what is God’s — meaning the sphere of spiritual affairs? According to this interpretation, human affairs are divided into two areas: the spiritual side which belongs to God and God’s ministers, and the secular side which belongs to civil authorities. Does Jesus really teach this kind of dualistic view of human existence? To understand the full import of this saying of Jesus we need to consider it in relation to the context in which Jesus said it originally.
While the statement, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” is true, we must not forget that Jesus said it as a way to escape from a trap. “The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, … Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” (Matthew 22:15-17). This is not a sincere question asked by people who really wanted to know the truth about church-state relations. It would, therefore, be wrong to treat the saying as a straightforward teaching of Jesus on the ideal relationship that should exist between church and state. Faced with the double-ended trap of the Pharisees and Herodians, in which it was unsafe to clearly say yes or no, Jesus framed his answer in such enigmatic language that it would be hard for either party to trap him. In this way he succeeded in confusing not only his interrogators but also many of us who read the Bible today. If you think Jesus meant that we should have two parallel loyalties, it might help to know that the Pharisees who heard him did not understand it in that way. In the trial of Jesus before Pilate one of the charges they brought against him was that he forbade paying taxes to Caesar (Luke 23:2).
An interesting shift in Jesus’ answer could point us in the direction of the import of the saying. The question was whether one should give (Greek didômi) tribute to Caesar. But Jesus’ answer spoke of giving back, paying back (paradidômi), as if one already owed something. What Jesus said could be paraphrased as: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s due, and to God what is God’s due.” Instead of answering the direct question of whether one should pay the forced tribute to Caesar or not, Jesus raises the question to another level, that of the principle of justice. Greek philosophers before Jesus defined justice as “giving back to everyone what is their due.” Jesus seems to be saying that the only binding obligation is that of justice, that of giving to every person what is due to them. Serving God is basically a matter of justice? If God has given us all that we are and have, then we are bound in justice to give back to God some gratitude, loyalty, and service. The central act of Christian worship is called Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving.” It is basically a question of paying back the debt of gratitude we owe to God.
To conclude, what then is Jesus teaching here regarding loyalty to civil authority? Jesus is recommending not absolute but qualified loyalty. That is to say, if a government provides needed goods and services then we must, in justice, give back to the government our loyalty and support. But where a government is a dictatorship that imposes itself on the people’s will, a leech that sucks itself fat from the life-blood of the people and provides no services, what then do the people have to give back? To such despotic governments, the principle of justice does not demand that people give their loyalty and support. To use this passage as a justification of unconditional loyalty and support of corrupt and totalitarian governments in a misunderstanding of what Jesus is teaching. Christians must together discern whether and to what extent a given government and its policies merit their loyalty and support. But total and absolute loyalty and service is a debt that we owe to God and to God alone.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Homily # 1
I am the Lord and there is no other. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
Probably there’s a good chance that we don’t need to worry about most of us being professed polytheists. We don’t tend to believe in multiple gods. Probably there’s a much better chance though that we need to look carefully if our “God” is the one true God. Well of course you say, but maybe that said too quickly doesn’t lead to real insight.
Is your God your belly? Paul accuses some of that. Does it rule me or do I rule it? It is necessary to think about this: To what, or to whom do I give my allegiance, my assent, my will, and my efforts? But I am after another way to ask the question. Have other Gods been created for me by others, or our culture that lead me to believe in answers and truths that will ultimately leave me unsatisfied, and less alive? That will offer life, goodness, and salvation, but really only offer what prove to be empty and unworthy substitutes. Let me set up 2 scenarios’s for us to look at.
Number 1, I like all human beings have yearnings and desires. I want to be whole, I want to be happy, I want to feel wanted and needed. These yearnings can lead to a sense of emptiness or unhappiness. I am not whole, I am needy, I am not sure I’m wanted or needed, or at least by those I want to want me. The God of consumption is ready to tell me there’s a cure. When I feel needy, empty, unfinished, unsatisfied, what I need are things, because owning, possessing, using, things can fill me. I will always need more, because the cure is always only temporary, but the God of consumption is always about ready to supply new things, improved things, distracting things, unnecessary things. Just buy and be happy.
Number 2 Pray and be wise. Don’t chase happiness; rather come to know more deeply what happiness is. Come to know more deeply what I really and truly need. Come to understand living, that inevitably includes sorrow and emptiness, is a gift, even as it is a challenge. Come to know that often love, commitment and obedience require challenge and sadness. Jesus embraced the cross not to sanctify hatred and mistrust, but rather to be faithful to God, he chose in love to obediently accept even death, death on a cross. Come to know that the cross leads to life, and that if we avoid the cross, though we might manage short term relief, means we will trade real life and living, for temporary and ultimately unsatisfying substitutes.
It seems to me scenario number one is a God our culture begs us give tribute to, but our Old Testament reading warns us against. That if we would give to God what is God’s we must learn in prayer and contemplation who God is, what God promises, and what leads to life and salvation. If our God promises life with no mention of the cross, of sacrifice, of committed obedient love, then perhaps we are following an other God.
So stop a bit and think and pray. Who is my God? To whom or to what do I give my heart, my needs, my emptiness, my allegiance, my assent, my will?
Homily # 2
A young lady was soaking up the sun’s rays on a beach when a little boy in his swimming trunks carrying a towel came up to her and asked her, “Do you believe in God?” She was surprised by the question but she replied, “Why yes I do?” Then he asked her, “Do you go to church every Sunday? ” Again her answer was yes. He then asked, “Do you read the Bible and pray every day?” Again she said yes but her curiosity was very much aroused. The little boy looked up at her and sighed mightily in relief and said, “Will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?”
The little boy was straightforward and honest in his questions because he wanted to entrust to the lady something valuable to him. In the gospel reading today the Pharisees are not being honest. They have no intent in entrusting Jesus with anything. They are not looking for the answer to a question. They don’t want someone to hold their quarter. They are looking for a way to get rid of this trouble making Nazarene named Jesus. And Jesus knows their dishonesty.
And who is this Cyrus who is mentioned in the first reading from the old testament? And how does he fit in the world of little boys and dishonest people? Well Cyrus is the Persian king who defeated the Babylonians in 539 BC and freed the captured Jews and sent them home with their liberated gold and silver temple vessels and gave them permission to rebuild their temple. This Pagan king helped reestablish devotion to the one true God of Israel. He did the right thing? Even though the prophet wrote this years before Cyrus lived, he grew up knowing of the prophecy and when he could he made a right choice even though he did not know God! So that’s how God works, right? He anoints his own vessels, inspires his own prophecies AND WE ONLY THINK WE ARE IN CHARGE. GOD RUNS THE CYRUS’S OF THE WORLD, THE STEWARDS OF THE GARDEN!
: The Pharisees, the orthodox Jews in Jesus’ time, were antagonized by Jesus’ teachings, antagonized enough to join forces with their bitter enemies the followers of King Herod and supporters of Rome in order to trap this upstart itinerant preacher. The question which was asked of Jesus would condemn him either way it was answered. If he said it was unlawful to pay the tax, they would promptly report him to the Roman officials and he would be arrested. If he said it was lawful to pay the tax he would stand discredited by the many orthodox Jews who hated Roman taxation since it put Rome in the place of God.
So what does the Jesus, our model person, do? He looks at these men holding a graven image in the holiest place in his world and recognizes the insincerity and danger of the question and turns it back on them. In essence he says, “you are the people who need human rulers. You use this money for trade and therefore accept the domination of him whose picture is on it so you must give him his due. But maybe you should remember what also is due God and give him his due ”
The most interesting part of Jesus’ clever avoiding of the trap was that it stands for all time as another one of those issues that will always come up in the lives of us humans who live in a world of relationships that needs government. Taxes and government are part and parcel of human life. Some people look at Jesus’ clever non-answer in the twentieth century and say that it proves that citizens who use money coined by the government should support that government with taxes. Perhaps that’s true but could he not be saying to all of us you and me “your question is dishonest. You are concerned with your own interests; you do not care to hear about my message of love which is in the interest of all people. So I turn my question on you. What do you owe Caesar? What do you owe God?” Isn’t that a question that could be directed to us also? As Catholics we know that both God and Caesar have claims on us and fortunately they usually are not mutually exclusive. If we were Thomas More or Thomas Beckett, our choice would lead the martyrdom as we followed God’s teaching. If we found our government leading us away from the teaching of God, we would be conscience bound to follow God. From the day that God set up the garden and put us in it, he has always been consistent. He has always let us decide. And our decisions have always made us who we are. Even if our name was Cyrus and we knew not God. We still were a piece of GOD’s plan.
And in that plan, we have the freedom to choose. And it’s a complicated choice at all times. One cannot live as one chooses in the world of men and then on Sunday submit to a world of the holy. Christian life in the world means a continual balancing of the demands of this world and that world. It means rendering to Caesar what he has a right to take but constantly reminding ourselves that Caesar’s right can never trample on the right of the Father.
Homily # 3
There is an old saying which goes, “Things never really change.” In today’s gospel we discover that 2000 years ago people were discussing the same topics we discuss today, politics and religion. There are those who say one shouldn’t mix politics with religion but Jesus seems to indicate otherwise. He admits they are separate issues but also makes it clear that God’s must be considered and, as He has said in other situations, God’s laws are primary.
This discussion comes at a good time because in a few days we will be deciding for whom we will vote. Jesus is very clear in saying, “Repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and repay to God what is God’s.” And so, the question arises, “What is due God?” When Jesus outlined the commandments He give us an exact description of what is God’s. For example, He said, “Thou shalt not kill.” God is the giver of life and it is not the province of a government to determine who dies and who lives. However, our government has decided that taking the life of an unborn child is legal. Some politicians running for office are saying that the modern Caesar, our federal government, has the right to make that decision. But Jesus, in his remarks in the gospel says “give to God what belongs to God…. that’s life.” So, do we mix politics and our religion? It would appear that Jesus is saying that when God’s laws are broken we definitely must act to change the political laws. We might reply, “Well, my opinion will never be heard in Washington .” It will if we follow the words of Jesus and give to God what is God’s and deny to Caesar something that he should not control. We do that by voting … voting for individuals who also believe that God’s laws are to be primary in our society.
Recently, Tom Minnery, of the radio network “Focus on the Family” wrote a book entitled “Why You Can’t Stay Silent”. I can’t explore all the details of the book but his premise is that we must stand up for our principles or those who oppose God’s laws will dominate our society and will not “give to God the things that are God’s.” And he’s absolutely right!
Think of our society today. Abortion is legal, same sex marriages are legal, on television your children are bombarded with pornography and organized religion is mocked by many in the media. As Jesus indicated today and as Mr. Minnery points out, “Who will change this trend if we, God’s people, remain silent.” We all have the same right as anyone else … we can express our opinions in private and in public. We have the same rights as those who oppose God’s teachings but, so often, we afraid to express His truths for fear that we will be ridiculed. Jesus says it very plainly …. stand up and demand that God be given what is His! Let Caesar decide on taxes, tariffs and defense but follow God’s laws where they apply.
It’s true that we are limited in the fact that we can only vote for 1 Senator and one member of the House. However, in today’s political arena, the margins between good and evil are so close that our votes, collectively, can truly can be decisive.
Another point that Mr. Minnery makes is that our government has taken the moral truths that have prevailed for centuries and has decided “We will make the decisions on what is right and what is wrong!” Jesus disagrees! Caesar doesn’t have that right … that right belongs to God.
The stakes are very high because everyone will can be influenced by bad decisions made by government. In the Book of Proverbs we find the statements, “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people. Through the blessings of the upright a city is exalted but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.”
In my opinion if abortion, pornography, the sexual content of education in schools, the selfish practice of business men and women who steal from their own partners and their stockholders and the other obvious immoral actions of many in this country continue, our society will be destroyed. In many instances the poor are ignored, the needy denied help and those who enjoy the luxuries of life forget that everything has ben given us by the grace of our God.
Our nation will be called to be responsible for our excesses. We see a perfect parallel in today’s gospel because that’s exactly what happened to the Rome of the Caesars. That great nation eventually collapsed.
We see a parallel in our Catholic Church by the recent scandals that have been disclosed. We and our entire nation cannot continue to ignore the teachings of our God. Render unto God the things that are God’s. We owe Him our obedience, our love and our prayers. We are His representatives here on earth.
Not much has changed in the last 2000 years. Jesus told His disciples, “Go and preach to all nations.” Today, we are His disciples. Those sent by Jesus suffered hardships, they were persecuted and 10 of the remaining 11 apostles were martyred. We don’t face that extreme opposition but we are told by many who oppose God’s view’s that we have no right to vote our convictions. Well, if the apostles and the many men and women who suffered while trying to spread the word of God could suffer hardships, we too can withstand any any attempt to keep us from exercising our religious convictions.
Therefore, at times we must put our beliefs before any other political considerations. That means it is not mixing politics and religion when we cast our vote for righteous men and women who will give to God what is God’s. When we do that we exercise our political and moral rights and we “Give to God what is God’s.”
Convenience or commitment?
By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:26:00 10/19/2008
THE story is told about a nun whose car ran out of gas. She went to a nearby gas station to buy gas, but there was no container available. She walked back to the car and found a bedpan. She filled the bedpan with gas, carried it back to her car, and started pouring the contents of the bedpan into the car’s gas tank. All the while, two drunks were watching everything across the road. One of them said: “If the car starts, I’m turning Catholic!”
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For some people, there are a lot of “ifs” before they turn to God. As it is, a lot of people are closed, suspicious and unbelieving when it comes to the Divine. Are you one of them? Do you need miracles and wonders, or do you need to go through crisis moments before you turn to the Divine?
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In today’s Gospel (Mt. 22, 15-21) Jesus rebukes the malicious and scheming Pharisees who want to trap Him using their worldly wisdom and logic with a question that involves politics—that of paying taxes to the Romans. Jesus’ answer is simple and to the point: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” It is also a rebuke to people who see the world, and who see their worldly concerns to be bigger than God.
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It is disgusting and sickening to hear lying politicians and government leaders spill out their convenient truths before the public. What I have noticed is that they are getting better and bolder all the time, and somehow they seem to get away with it. Truth indeed has become such a lonely word. Justice has become so selective, and public service has become so anemic. This is a simple case of God being left out, and gospel values being evicted in order to uphold what is profitable and convenient.
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The greatest enemy of commitment is that which is convenient. When values are gone, then anything is possible. Remove God from the picture, then even the frame collapses. Remove God from the heart, from the family, from a nation and from the world, then there will be chaos, disorder and confusion. At this point, let us all ask ourselves: Am I an instrument of God’s truth, or am I an instrument of my selfish convenient truth?
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These days, there are so many going for profit, and we have so few prophets. There are so many who are focused on what is convenient, and there are so few who uphold commitment. A person who sees what is profitable and what is convenient is of this world, while a person who upholds prophetic commitment is of God. God, give us more committed prophets in this our day and time!
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Calling on the clergy to come together and discern, in line with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ call for “Circles of Discernment” on the current situation and social issues in our country. In line with this, there is an invitation from Msgr. Manuel Gabriel to meet on Oct. 28, 2008, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Diocesan Center of Cubao, 41 Lantana St., Quezon City. There is a need for the clergy, individually and collectively, to pray and discern together, in line with their role as prophets, their concrete participation and response to the worsening poverty and corruption plaguing our people today.
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Today is World Mission Sunday. Last week two of our Filipino SVD missionaries arrived from East Timor. Fr. Alan Bondoc, SVD and Fr. Ferdie Resuena, SVD, who are on home vacation, related to me their mission experiences especially at the time of the civil war. At that time, there was already a plane sent from the Philippines to help evacuate our expats there, but they chose to stay in their mission, to be with their people, at a time when their people needed them most. That’s commitment. That’s way beyond what is convenient.
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Please continue to pray and support our Filipino missionaries “out there” who have left home, country and family, braving deprivation, loneliness and even persecution for the sake of the Gospel. Please call 7217457/4147044 (SVD Mission Office) or email firstname.lastname@example.org on how to be a part of our world mission.
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Mission accomplished at 64. Fr. Joel Maribao, SVD went back to the Lord last Oct. 16 after 37 years as a missionary priest, the last three of which were spent at our retirement house in Christ the King Seminary, Quezon City, offering much suffering and pain due to muscle and nerve disorder. Even in retirement, he entertained thoughts of applying for foreign missions. He served as provincial superior of the SVD Central Province for five years. Prior to that he was very much involved with the SVD Education apostolate with his MS in Educational Management, Ph.D. in Organizational Development and Planning, and his MSNA from the National Defense College of the Philippines. Ever jolly and personable, Father Joel, from Ronda, Cebu, reported back to his Creator, with a joyful smile and a salute saying: “Mission accomplished.” Writes Fr. Gil Alejandria, SVD: “With his demise, the Philippine SVD witnessed the end of a rare example of a multi-faceted and multi-tasking intellectual and administrator.” And if we may add, a personable, committed missionary and confrere.
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Bantay Matanda invites you to a lay forum on “Understanding Behavioral Problems in the Aged” on Oct. 25, 2008 at Jannsen Hall, Christ the King Seminary, 8 a.m. to 12 nn. For inquiries please call 3732262 or 09174167849.
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A moment with the Lord:
Lord, help me to go beyond what is convenient and stand for my commitment. Amen.
GOOD CHRISTIANS & HONEST CITIZENS: Reflection for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isang pari ang may alagang parrot at tinuruan niya itong kumanta. Ngunit kakaiba ang pagtuturo n’ya rito. Kapag hinila mo ang kanang paa nito ay kakanta ito ng “Lupang Hinirang” at kapag kaliwa naman ay “Ama Namin”. Minsang dumalaw ang obispo sa kanilang simbahan at buong yabang na pinagmalaki ng pari ang kanyang alaga. Tuwang-tuwa ang obispo at sinubukan niyang hilahin ang kanang paa ng ibon. Kumanta naman ito ng “Bayang, magiliw…” at sinunod naman nitong hilahin ang kaliwang paa. “Ama namin sumasalangit ka…” Namangha ang obispo at naglaro ang kanyang isip. “Ano kaya ang kakantahin nito kapag hinila kong sabay ang paa?” sabay hila sa paa ng ibon. At biglang bulalas ng ibon: “Hoy tanga! malalaglag ako!” Puwede nga bang pagsabayin ang Ama Namin at Lupang Hinirang? Puwedeng bang pagsabayin ang pagiging Maka-Diyos at Maka-bayan? Maraming nagsasabing hindi! Kung paano ang langis at tubig ay hindi mapaghahalo ay ganun din daw ang Simbahan at pulitika. Ano ba ang pananaw ni Jesus dito? Nang tinanong si Jesus kung karapat-dapat bang magbayad ng buwis sa Cesar (Emperador ng Roma) ay napakasimple ng kanyang sagot: “Ibigay sa Cesar ang sa Cesar at ang Diyos naman ay dapat ibigay sa Diyos!” Sinasabi sa ‘tin ni Jesus na hindi dapat natin kaligtaan ang ating tungkulin sa Diyos kahit na tayo ay naglilingkod sa lipunan at gayundin naman ay di dapat kaligtaaan ang tungkulin sa lipunan kung tayo naman ay naglikingkod sa Diyos! Malimit gamitin ng mga kalaban ng Simbahan ang “separation of Church and State” para hindi sila pakialaman ng Simbahan sa mga maling pamamalakad nito. Ngunit hindi ganito ang turo ng Diyos. Ang Simbahan ay may pananagutan kapag ang itinuturo ng estado ay labag sa pananampalataya at buhay moral! Hinihikayat din tayong maging mabubuting Kristiyano at mga tapat na mamamayan sa pamamagitan ng masusing pagtupad ng ating tungkulin sa Diyos at sa ating bayan. Ang pagiging mabuting Kristiyano ay pagiging maka-Diyos at maka-tao at ang pagiging tapat na mamayan naman ay maipapakita sa pagiging maka-bayan at maka-mamamayan. Ang lahat ng ito ay sapagkat may iisa tayong Diyos na sinasamba at pinaniniwalaan. Anuman ang ating lahi o kultura, iisang Diyos ang kumakalinga at nag-aalaga sa atin. Kaya nga’t pagsilbihan natin Siya sa pagiging tapat na mamamayan ng ating lipunan ngunit huwag din nating kalilimutang mabuhay na mabubuting mamamayan ng Kanyang kaharian. Be good Christians and honest citizens!
How can we be missionaries
By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD
October 14, 2011, 10:42pm
MANILA, Philippines — One Sunday morning after saying Mass at the Sacred Heart Church in Kamuning some years ago, I was approached by a couple with their baby cuddled by the wife. “Father, we’re from this parish,” they greeted.
“We’re lay missionaries to New Guinea and we’re on vacation.” We got to talking about their work. I found it inspiring that a Filipino lay couple could make the sacrifice of leaving a comfortable home and country to devote some years in the “bush mission.”
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Tomorrow is WORLD MISSION SUNDAY. The example of that couple disproves the misconception that spreading God’s Word belongs only to religious missionaries. The truth of the matter is: Every Christian, by virtue of baptism, IS a missionary.
Obviously, not all can do what the couple missionary did. If some heroic lay people can do it, fine. But for most of us, all that we can do is to be missionaries at home, whether you are a teacher, nurse, executive, lawyer or ordinary housewife. What counts is not geography, but the attitude.
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Remember St. Therese of the Child Jesus? She never stepped out of the four walls of her Carmelite cloister but was chosen as the universal patroness of Catholic missions.
She merited the title because of her burning obsession to save souls by offering every little act, every bodily pain for the conversion of immortal souls.
How can we be missionaries at home? Like St. Therese, we can offer prayers and sacrifices for the missions.
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Then we can give a part of ourselves by means of financial contribution. Ordinarily money is what we receive when we are employed; it thus represents a part of ourselves.
Money is a necessity for the success of evangelization. Missionaries, lay workers, catechists must be housed, fed, clothed, transported; churches, schools, convents, clinics, social centers have to be built in “bush” missions or underdeveloped places.
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Let’s face it: One of the most difficult things to do is to part off with one’s money. This reminds me about a parish priest who was making an impassioned appeal to the parish council for the annual mission collection.
Great was everybody’s surprise when the wealthiest, but miserly member of the council rose and offered to start the collection rolling with a contribution of P500.
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As he stood up to hand in the amount, a mild earthquake took place and some plaster from the ceiling fell and hit him on the head.
A bit shaken, he withdrew the amount and said, “I guess I’d better make that P5,000.” A small voice from the back of the hall was heard, “Hit him again, Lord.” (It’s not known if he added some more).
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How about you? Are you doing something for the missions? Are you aware of many religious priests, nuns, and lay brothers laboring in far-flung villages to spread Jesus’ teachings and contribute to help them? If one of those brown envelopes is handed to you, give your share. Don’t wait for the Lord to hit you. You may not recover from it!
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A