29th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A
October 19, 2014


Good, old Jose Feliciano crooned that “love comes from the most unexpected places.” Well, you and I know that very well. Amorous feelings come our way without us planning for them, wanting them, and developing them. Feelings come and go, of course, and, when the dust has settled, sort of, when feelings are gone, real love and commitment remain, whether feelings are there or not.

God’s graces and gifts, too, come through the intermediary of the most unexpected people … yes, including Cyrus who was idolized by the Jews for giving them back their liberty and self-esteem. The famous Edict of Cyrus gave the possibility for the Jewish exiles to go back to their promised land and rebuild their homes, their temple in Jerusalem, and reboot their lives once more (1st reading).

They say God writes straight with crooked lines. This time, according to the report of Isaiah, God simply writes straight. Period. No matter what the ulterior motives of Cyrus were … and have other motives, Cyrus most likely did! (a strategic tactical move? … an attempt at ingratiating himself to the Israelites and their neighbors? Your guess is as good as mine.)

I really have no axes to grind against the Cyruses of this world who might have other plans up their sleeves. But I do have a word or two to say about a God who can make use even of scheming potentates like Cyrus was, to do good to people that God loves.

I don’t know whether Cyrus really loved the Israelites, but I do know one thing … God surely loved His people and cared for them. And He made use of people like Cyrus to show and effect that love.

I don’t know how bad and cruel Saul was prior to his encountering the Lord and getting converted, but I do know one thing … God has done marvelous works through Paul and He was behind his dramatic turnaround for the better. God does write straight for the benefit of His people. Today, we have a brilliant example of it. Paul thanks God profusely for the Thessalonians who, despite their attachment to God, had to go on with their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope.” (2nd reading).

Even today, we have reason to thank God for the grace of martyrdom for many Christians who suffer ignominious and cruel deaths for their faith – unreported, unheralded – even unmourned by the rest of the indifferent world, under the hands of people who hate everybody else who does not belong to their group. Even today, we can thank God, for despite having to be loyal to the many unpredictable and unworthy Caesars in this world here and now, we still find it in our hearts to “give what is due to God, and to give what is due to Caesar.”

My task today is not to give in to rants and complaints about the worthiness or otherwise of the Caesars that populate our world where we are. But my task, as preacher, is to highlight what everyone of us is called to, by God, who can write straight through crooked people like the many Caesars and Caesar-wannabes that dot the political landscape.

And my point is simple and clear – as clear as the point of Isaiah and Paul and no less than the Lord Himself who, today counsels us: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Yes, dear Juan and Juana de la Cruz (or dear John Doe & Virginia, as the case may be) … there is life beyond politics. There is life beyond the narrow confines of limiting and constricting earthly ideologies. There is more to life than merely shouting and hollering slogans and self-serving clamors. There is more to life than just living here and now, in this valley of tears. There is a thing called “work of faith, labor of love, and endurance in hope” … all at the service of what “God has prepared for us” … eternal life, no less … and what He has in store for us, is both literally and figuratively “out of this world!”

Onward Christian soldiers! “Shine like lights in the world as you hold on to the word of life. Alleluia. Alleluia!” (Gospel acclamation). As we ought!