To maintain our freedom, share with the community and sacrifice ourselves for others
First, a little history: Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire and king of Persia from 559 to 530 BC. He is venerated in the Hebrew Bible as Cyrus the Messiah for conquering Babylon and liberating the Jews from captivity. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_the_Great_in_the_Bible#
So, the First Reading reveals a an important point: although a conquering King may be guilty of war-crimes, the Jewish people saw God working through Cyrus. So, they gave thanks to God: they looked for God acting in the world.
Are we humble enough, and grateful enough, to look for God in the world around us? When we look for and appreciate the good things that happen as God’s love for us, then we will live a happier life, with no mental health issues. Why? Because we will live with true hope.
The Gospel, at face value, tells us that part of our work as Christians is to contribute to the society in which we live, and to give equal measure to God.
But, how do we give to God what belongs to God? What belongs to God? Let’s remember: Jesus never told anyone to worship Him. Jesus only said: follow me or come and see or do not be afraid. So, let us not be overly pious and say: we give God our praises of words and songs. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not what belongs to God.
Our words and songs of praise are ways to encourage ourselves to give what really belongs to God: our good actions towards others, our honesty with others, our forgiveness of others, etc.
St Paul alludes to it in the Second Reading: “We always… thank God for you all,… how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope…”
There is another lesson in the Gospel today, and it comes at the beginning, and belongs to God: the way we respond to people who are attempting to cheat us, embarrass us, or insult us.
The Gospel opens with the Pharisees planning to trick Jesus. Now, I don’t believe they were particularly nasty or evil men. They were afraid of Jesus and felt threatened in the normal things they held to every day.
Then, Jesus responds with courtesy and wisdom. There is no anger in his voice. He exposes their behaviour and then repays the treachery with wisdom and instruction: a teaching moment.
How many of us can do that!? Most of us are walking around with overly sensitive minds. So that, when we are criticised (even for good reason), we respond with a defensive attitude: raised voice, anger, closed mind to what is said; perhaps even an outburst of bad language!
So, what is it that makes most of us so sensitive? It could be many reasons. eg. Low self-esteem, lack of achievement (often no opportunity). We can also look at the emotional needs we all have, to help us identify what is missing in our lives:
- To be loved, AND to love others;
2. A sense of belonging;
3. Time for regular joyful activities;
4. Achievements – short, medium and long term;
5. A spiritual framework.
Now, beyond those emotional needs, there is also two other attitudes we need to develop which give practical meaning to the first emotional need above:
A) express appreciation and speak good words to people every day;
B) help someone in a practical way each day: eg. share your lunch.
Both activities above teach our UNCONSCIOUS mind that we are blessed many times over. If we feel blessed, then our fears disappear and we become less sensitive.
Then we are able to give to God what belongs to God: we can share wisdom and teach others new ways to see the truth, especially in times of hurt.
Many times, I’m sure, our parents did this to us as children. How many times were we rude or angry with mum or dad and they replied with a smile or a piece of advice. I think there were also times we were sent to bed without dinner! Ha, ha. Even parents get stressed and worried.
So, in summary, if we want to maintain our freedom, we must give what is needed for the good functioning of the community (give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar), and sacrifice ourselves for the good of people living with us (give to God what belongs to God).
By Gerard Conlan, OMI