(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: https://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/Mass-Blog-for-the-29th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-time-2023.mp3)
“What gives you the right to preach to me about God?”
That may have been the thinking of the hackers who last month took down the Brothers in Christ website hosting this blog. But rather than give us the respect to ask us that trick question directly, as the Pharisees did to Jesus, they decided to answer it for themselves and for you—by cancelling us.
One of our tech-talented Brothers got us back up and running in a few weeks, and our Brother Knights of Columbus Lafayette Council shared their site with us as a delivery platform to keep us in circulation. But the question remains, why would similarly talented tech gurus want to take us out of circulation?
Evidently they shared the same malice as Jesus’ enemies, but lacked their evil finesse. At least the Pharisees gave Jesus the opportunity to cancel himself by possibly getting on the wrong side of the powerful people who were more than ready to punish him for sedition.
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you … are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Mt 22:15-21)
In other words, “Why is your God better than our king?” Answering would force Jesus to challenge Caesar’s perceived divine right to world leadership. But Jesus tricked them back, thereby teaching us that the divine right to lead in this world is ours—and not only our right, but our duty—empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to lead by example, not malicious will.
Sunday’s first reading (Is 45:1, 4-6) shows Isaiah telling Cyrus that this spirit chose him by name to lead others to that same spirit among us on earth. Isaiah adds that God made this earth, “not as an empty waste but to be lived in.”
Living in it by God’s power requires loving in it, as Paul, Silvanus and Timothy tell the church of the Thessalonians who’ve impressed them by their works of faith, labor of love and “endurance in the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ … For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” (1 Thes 1:1-5b)
Conviction means both a strongly held belief and a declaration of guilt. Our life is to be spent building one while acknowledging the other—and by doing those things, helping others do them. It’s not a right, but our duty in order to keep this world from becoming Caesar’s wasteland.