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Youth Ministry Resources - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year A: Matt 22:15-21 - Return to Caesar what is Caesar's - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I have often had the experience during an exchange of ideas at a meeting or an encounter with someone when I wished I had said something brilliant or at least met the challenge equally. I seem to think of the best response in the car on the way home when I am at my 'brilliant' best!!! Jesus does not seem to have this problem when he encounters a testing situation, there seems to be unlimited wisdom frequently combined with a challenge and that is what we hear in today's Gospel.

Remember that one of the core values in this 1st Century Mediterranean world is that of honour and shame. Jesus had considerable honour among the people and so one way of bringing him shame is to challenge his integrity in public. The high priests and elders have decided that they have had enough of the parables of Jesus that are used to show up their poor leadership and so they send their disciples, or followers to trap Jesus.

Initially they show Jesus honour by describing him "as an honest man…and a man's rank means nothing to you" the importance of this statement can be overlooked because we are not as familiar with the linking statements of biblical truths. When Jesus ignores a person's rank he is claiming justice for each person and an impartiality that refuses to take a bribe and tilts in favour of the poorer litigant. This is the biblical basis for the preferential option for the poor - a central teaching of Jesus.

Then after attributing honour, they try to trap Jesus - if Jesus supports paying unpopular Roman taxes he will lose his honour with the Jewish people. If however, he rejects the payment of taxes he could be associated with the Zealots, a group of people who were frequently in violent rebellion against the Romans.

The exchange is one of the most widely quoted in the secular world and is one we should reflect on carefully today. What does it mean for us to "give to God what belongs to God"? You and I belong to God but God is not expecting us to leave our families and become hermits in the desert, there are other ways of giving to God, sometimes it is as simple as deciding to turn off the TV and read a religious book or spend some time in quiet reflection and prayer.

It definitely means that we show honour to each person we meet and not seek to honour ourselves or our position as we destroy another's reputation. Perhaps some leading questions for our reflection could be "would God be pleased with my behaviour this day? Would I have made that comment if the Archbishop was standing next to me? Did I recognise Christ in that homeless man? Etc etc etc

Cate Mapstone

Year C: Luke 18:9-14 - The Pharisee and the Tax Collector - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus is speaking this parable "to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else." Jesus is also speaking this parable to his disciples and to you and me. While we may not be Pharisees or Tax Collectors, the challenge is to our attitude rather than our role.

Pharisees frequently get bad press in the Scriptures and this is not to say that all Pharisees were bad. They were a party who were centred on the strict observance of the Law and they interpreted the obligations of the Law in the most severe manner.

There are modern "Pharisees" who can quote any number of 'laws' and their inclusion of every letter of the law is usually to the exclusion of God and God's Spirit in the law. The Pharisee also represents those of us who can only bolster our own self-image by cutting down those around us.

So this parable is about our overall attitude. The Pharisee is telling God how wonderful he (the Pharisee) is, there is no praise for God, and it is all self-praise. The Pharisee does not need God's free gift of love and justification as the Pharisee has justified himself. The Tax Collector has recognised his need for God's mercy beats his breast as a sign of repentance and asks for God's help.

So how are we measuring up? Honestly! Many of us are at Mass frequently; during the Penitential Rite we ask for God's mercy, some of us beat our breast (from habit or from recognition of our sinfulness?) Most of us messed something up during the past week and at the beginning of Mass it is a good time to recognise that we need God's mercy and help to get it 'a bit more right' in the coming week.

We listen to God's Word and respond 'thanks be to God.' We receive the Body and Blood of Christ and become what we have received. Our week must be better if we have been open to God throughout Mass.

If we have been sitting through Mass and deciding that we are pretty good, unlike our neighbours who are still in bed or who are out having a good time, then we have missed the whole point.

If we think we are better than those people who wander the streets or who feel they have no choice but to be involved in a less desirable job then we do not understand what it means to be a child of God.

Cate Mapstone

Youth Ministry Resources 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Youth Ministry Resources 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time