29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

“For our Gospel came to you not only in word,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit.”

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply: Amen

Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply: Blessed be God for ever

Leader: Today is Mission Sunday, and we are called to personal encounter with Jesus Christ alive in the Church, and to offer, through this Sunday Church at home, our prayers and our support, through the Pontifical Mission Society,  to continue the mission of Jesus. Today we are “sent” out to witness to Mission in the world through our prayers and personal sacrifices for our brothers and sisters around the world. Jesus came to create a new society where there is no room for “them” and “us”. God’s love includes each one of us, regardless of our differences.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Isaiah 45:1.4-6

Introduction to the reading: When today’s passage from the book of Isaiah was written, the Jewish people had been held in exile by Babylon for more than 40 years.  Cyrus, the king of neighbouring Persia, was preparing to invade Babylon.  The prophet sees Cyrus, a pagan king, as an instrument of God.  Through this military victory, God will free his people and allow them to return home.

A reading from the Book of Isaiah

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and uncover the loins of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I clothe you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial psalm: Psalm 96:1 and 3.4-5..7-8.9-10a and c

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm beginning and ending with the response: 

R/: Give the Lord glory and power.

O sing a new song to the Lord;

Sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Tell among the nations his glory,

and his wonders among all the peoples.

For the Lord is great and highly to be praised,

to be feared above all gods.

For the gods of the nations are naught.

It was the Lord who made the heavens.

Give the Lord, you families of peoples

give the Lord glory and power;

Give the Lord the glory of his name.

Bring an offering and enter his courts.

Worship the Lord in holy splendour.

O tremble before him, all the earth.

Say to the nations, ‘The Lord is king’.

He will judge the peoples in fairness.

R/: Give the Lord glory and power.

Second reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b

Introduction to the reading: Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest of all New Testament writings, coming only about 20 years after the Resurrection of Jesus.  Today’s reading gives us the letter’s opening words.  In just five verses, we hear reference to God the Father, the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and also to faith, hope and love.  It indicates how quickly these essentials of our faith became part of our Christian tradition.

A reading from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

Brothers and sisters: Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you; for our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. 

The Word of the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia.
You will shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life. 

Alleluia!

Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 

At that time: The Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle him in his talk. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no person; for you do not regard the position of people. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the money for the tax.” And they brought him a coin. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection on the Readings 

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily 

There are lots of detective shows on TV. One show I like is called Vera. Vera is a detective in the police and works in the northern part of England. She is getting on in years, a bit short and dumpy but a sharp mind. No one can fool Vera.

They did not have detectives in Isaiah’s time about 2800 years ago. But I want to get Vera to investigate to get the low down on this Cyrus character. We hear about him in the first reading today from the Book of Isaiah. So I want Vera, our detective to prepare a report on him. First she would tell us of the time of Cyrus’ appearance. Cyrus arrived towards the end of Israel’s exile in Babylon, around 553 BCE.

Israel had been unfaithful to God and so, the prophets that God had used the Babylonians to punish the people and take them into exile. The people used to slaves in Egypt, and now they are once again slaves in a foreign land. They can do nothing to help themselves. When they were slaves in Egypt God raised up Moses, one of their own, to deliver and lead them to the Promise Land. But we would ask our Vera our detective, “Who is this Cyrus?” His name doesn’t sound Jewish. It sounds foreign. But it is clear that whoever he is, he is going to be God’s instrument to bring the people back to their homeland.

We want our detective to bring us a recording of God speaking to Cyrus. Imagine Israel’s surprise when Cyrus is called God’s “anointed.” The word ‘anointed’ translates as ‘Messiah’ That is surprising for us, because we only know Jesus as the Messiah or Christ. The Messiah should be chosen from among the Israelites. God tells Cyrus that he will serve God’s purpose, even though Cyrus doesn’t know God – “though you knew me not.”

Vera our detective then tells us that God grasps the hand of Cyrus. What does that mean? Grasping the hand of Cyrus means that God is conferring royal power and authority on Cyrus. As a consequence, he is now part of Israel’s history; even though he did not know the God of Israel. God will precede Cyrus and open doors for him to help him achieve military success. Cyrus led the Persian army that conquered Babylon and when he did, this pagan ruler allowed the exiles to return home. He even helped them rebuild their homeland and Temple.

Have you ever missed something that was happening before your eyes and have someone tell you, “Wake up and smell the roses”? That’s what Isaiah is telling the people, “Wake up and see what God is doing for you: a foreigner is the agent God is using to release you from slavery. 

There is the story about a man in bar in a tiny town in the Karoo. He says to the bartender, “My car broke down in the middle of the Karoo. It dry and desolate and there was no water. I was sure I was going to die. I prayed and prayed to God for help, but he didn’t answer me.” The surprised bartender said, “But you are here and alive!” “Sure,” the man responded, “thanks to two farmers who happened to come by.”

Is that what the Israelites would have said? “We prayed and prayed for deliverance from our exile, but God did not answer us. If it weren’t for that pagan king Cyrus, we would still be there.”

For ancient believers the god they worshiped had localized power. For example, the god of the Babylonians was Marduk. When they were slaves in Egypt the supreme god there was Ra. The gods ruled within the geography on the nation. So, probably the Israelites, enslaved in Babylon, thought that the Lord God (Yahweh) was back in Israel, and not in Babylon.

Because of that, Isaiah taught the people the Lord, their God, had not stayed behind, but had come into exile with them. When we suffer trials it can feel like God is somewhere “back there,” not “here” where we are in pain. Israel learned that God was not “back there,” or “back then,” but supreme and universal, more powerful than the other gods. They would also come to believe that there is no other God but Yahweh. 

Do we have our eyes closed to God’s delivering hand? All the news has been filled with incredible stories of exhausted medical staffs labouring away in emergency wards; delivery people bringing medicine to the elderly and sick confined to their homes; volunteers gathering and distributing food boxes to the recently unemployed, etc.

It has been humbling to discover the work of St Vincent de Paul, our Pensioner and children support group, our parish poverty relief fund, the team from Alpha giving a meal to 340 children in Diepsloot each week. They our modern day Cyrus, sent by God to nurse us and bring us home to safety from this exile. They like the two farmers saving us from the desert that threatens so many of us?

In our parish we have been given eyes to see. We believe there is but one God, no matter the name other faiths and cultures call God. Cyrus may not have confessed faith in the God of Israel, but that does not mean God wasn’t with him using him to lead the people to freedom.

From today’s I Thessalonians reading:

“For our gospel came to you not only in word,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they not only heard the word of the gospel, but saw its effects on their lives. If we are going through a testing time it’s good to remind ourselves how God helped us in the past. Such a reminder can build hope and enable endurance in the present.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Is there someone who needs to hear an encouraging word from us? What can I do about it?
  • When I try to give that support will I do as Paul does, remind them of the faith they have received and how God is their source of power and endurance?

Prayer of the Faithful 

Leader: Today, on Mission Sunday, we remember the Church across the world and unite ourselves in prayer for each person, made in God’s image and likeness.

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis: (pause)

that he might continue to lead the world in building bridges of love and understanding between peoples.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for people in leadership positions in South Africa: (pause)

that they might work together to put an end to corruption, discrimination and injustice.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for the Church, especially in places where it is young or in need of support: (pause)

that Mission Sunday might be a source of hope and encouragement.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for parishes across the world as parishioners remember people whom they will probably never meet: (pause)

that Mission Sunday might bring them closer together in faith and love. 

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all medical staff and researchers in this coronavirus pandemic: (pause)
that God’s healing Spirit will guide them in their work of healing and finding a vaccine.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for: Manuel Jardim, Dalia Tiziana Rota, Simon and Flora Giuricich, Olga, Gabriel and the Joseph family, and Hilda Johnston.

Leader: Let us pray our prayer on fraternity and social friendship 

O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion of your divine life,
pour out upon us a torrent of fraternal love.
Grant us the love reflected in the actions of Jesus,
in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.

Grant that we Christians may live the Gospel,
discovering Christ in each human being,
recognizing him crucified
in the sufferings of the abandoned
and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister
who makes a new start.

Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are necessary,
different faces of the one humanity
that God so loves. 

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

– From the encyclical letter “FRATELLI TUTTI” of the Holy Father Francis

on fraternity and social friendship.

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us. 

My Jesus,
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us: 

All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader: O God,
it is your will that all should be saved
and come to the knowledge of the truth.

Look upon your abundant harvest
and send workers to preach the gospel 

to every creature,
so that your people, 

gathered by the word of life
and supported by the power of the sacraments,
may advance in the way of salvation and love.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you 

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Blessing

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All: Amen.

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