Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
1. Cyrus, a Gentile, permitted the Israelites to return from captivity in Babylon to their homeland. Who are the people in the last hundred and fifty years who have broken down the walls of prejudice and freed oppressed peoples? Were they all Christian? Do you think God chose them? Has God ever used you? If so, were you aware of it?
2. The God of one people (Israelites) is pictured doing marvelous deeds through another people (Cyrus’s people). Is this a purely political event, or is God the doer of these deeds? Notice the last line of the reading: “I am the Lord, there is no other.”
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b
1. Do the following help in your reception of the word:
• presence of the Holy Spirit;
• people living the Gospel with much conviction?
Compare and contrast these:
• receiving the word as way of life
• receiving the word as a code of conduct.
2. St. Paul says, “For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” Does the Holy Spirit allow us to enter more into the sense of Christ’s words? Does the Spirit give us fraternal dialogue (brotherly conversation which helps us speak with friendship and tenderness) to solve a problem?
1. In this Gospel, are the Pharisees interested more in taxes or in undermining Jesus’ influence? Do God’s and Caesar’s worlds have to be separated? What would the world look like if they were (somewhat) joined together?
2. Jesus often called the doctors of the law “hypocrites” because they claimed to have higher standards or more noble beliefs. “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” Then Jesus asks them to show him a real coin, used to pay the tax. How does he shame them?
Pope Francis said last June that “Hypocrisy is so bad for the Church.” Could there be people in the Church today who, because of their ideology, refuse to change to a “What would Jesus do?” kind of thinking regarding today’s realities?
Hypocrisy is so bad for the Church. The hypocrite is capable of destroying a community. While speaking gently, he ruinously judges a person. He is a killer.
Pope Francis concluded by exhorting the faithful to remember that the only way to respond to flattery is with truth; the only way to respond to ideology is with reality.