Gospel Reflection - Sunday 18th October 2020

Mt 22:15-21: The Pharisees and the Herodians asked Jesus: “Is it permissible to pay taxes?” By asking the question the Pharisees and the Herodians were trying to trick Jesus. Herodians were staunch defenders of the tax. Pharisees, on the other hand, opposed the tax. Hard-line Pharisees taught that Jews had a duty not to pay the tax. Such a question represents a dilemma. If Jesus agrees that the tax should be paid then He becomes an enemy to the Jews. If Jesus agrees that the tax should ‘not’ be paid then He becomes an enemy of Caesar. What answer does Jesus give?“ Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Our Lord’s answer explains that if a ruler, or someone in authority asks us to do something then we do it (Except if it is contrary to God’s Will, of course.). St Peter wrote in 1Peter 2:17: “Have reverence for God and respect for the Emperor.” St Paul wrote in Romans 13:1: “Obey authorities” and in Romans 13:7, St Paul wrote: “pay what you owe those in authority, pay them your personal and property taxes and show respect to them.”

One characteristic of every Christian is their unsurpassed honour or support for those in authority, i.e. their government. Pastor Yun is a Chinese church leader who is alive today. For simply being a Christian, he has been imprisoned for a significant part of his life. In one prison his legs were broken so that he would never escape, and his legs were beaten ‘everyday’ so that he was always in excruciating agony. When a man from the West told him that he had been praying for the Chinese government to be replaced with another government that would not persecute Christians, Pastor Yun rebuked him saying that Christians should always honour, support and pray ‘for’ their governments and never pray ‘against’ them.In fact, Christians should lead or inspire others in their honour and support of governments. Pastor Yun said we should obey them totally except when they ask us to do something which is not God’s Will.

Pastor Yun explained that the Chinese Government – because it persecutes Christians is actually a blessing sent from God. He explained that persecution of Christians makes us stronger. Because of persecution the Christians in China are serious about their faith unlike the Christians in the West who are not serious about our faith, he says. For example, Pastor Yun once wrote: “On numerous occasions the leader of a prayer meeting in China would announce: ‘We have a new worker who is leaving tomorrow to serve the Lord.’ Immediately every single person would completely empty their pockets of everything they had. Often this money was not just everything we had in our pockets at the time but everything we owned in the whole world.” We don’t get angry at the Chinese government but rather we thank God for them because it is through persecution that the faith is alive in China (much more than it is here in the West). In fact, in China thousands of Chinese are being converted to Christianity every single day. Of course, it is far better to be Christian and be persecuted than not be a Christian and not be persecuted. Far Better!

This Kingdom on earth only came about due to sin, the sin of Adam. Because of the Original Sin, Adam and Eve were cast out of God’s Kingdom. Our Lord has told us that the Prince of this world is Satan, (John 12:31). The objective of Satan and his demons is to win over every mind and heart, and we can clearly see that he is making great strides even to convincing rulers and governments, all over the world to think they no longer have to submit their authority to God. The good news is that God never intended us to be in this Kingdom on earth. This is not our true home. This world only came about due to sin. God intended us to remain in union with Him in His Kingdom. That is our true home. The central message of Our Lord is that God’s Kingdom, which was lost due to original sin, will be restored. For example, when Our Lord taught us to pray he taught us the Our Father prayer and at the beginning of that prayer he taught us to pray. “Your Kingdom Come. Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

In the Gospel of Matthew, for example, Our Lord preached about His Kingdom over 30 times. For example: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.”(4:17) “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness” (6:33) “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden” (13:44)When Our Lord sent his disciples out, He asked them only to preach that the Kingdom is coming. (Luke 9:2) No other message is more important than this message. In God’s Kingdom in heaven, the saints are in perfect union with God, where they experience infinite Life and Love, at every moment. In heaven the saints are no longer of the flesh or the world or the evil one, instead they are of the Holy Spirit. An ideal example of that on earth is Our Blessed Mother, while she lived in this Kingdom on earth she was not of this Kingdom. She was full of the Holy Spirit, or ‘of God’s Kingdom.’ The Kingdom on earth is not our true home. We are not meant to be of the flesh or the world or the evil one. We are meant to be of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should be full of joy. We should find it difficult to contain our joy because we should have a joy that our human nature would not be able to sustain.

Our Lord said to Bl Alexandrina de Costa, Portugal: “If you knew how much I love you, you would die of joy.”(She died on October 13, 1955) This is the joy the saints have in heaven. This is the joy that God wants us to have here on earth. We don’t have that joy because we don’t keep our hearts and minds on God and on His Kingdom, instead we are seduced by this kingdom, the kingdom of the flesh, the world and the evil one. That is our challenge, to say no to this kingdom and all its temptations and to say yes to God’s Love. In other words, to say no to our human will and to say yes to the Divine Will. Our God is inviting us into His Kingdom. When our human will rears its head, we should take refuge in God’s arms through prayer and self-denial. We must be prepared to make any sacrifice rather than give one act to our human will.If we decide never to do our human will in order to do only the Divine Will, then God’s Kingdom will form in our soul. We will feel inseparable to Our Lord. We will be given authority over the flesh and the world and the evil one.