Read Isaiah 60:1-6, Ps. 67:2-3.5,7-8, Romans 10:9-18, Luke 24:44-53

“Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.’” (Luke 24:45-46)

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates World Mission Sunday. On this day, we are reminded that the Church is missionary by nature – the Church exists to evangelise the world following Christ’s mandate: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15). Although the task of evangelisation remains ongoing, the Church has carved out this Sunday for us to reflect on the spreading of God’s word to the ends of the earth. Let us now reflect on the lessons contained in today’s readings:

1. To Evangelize is to Let Your Light Shine
In today’s first reading, the Prophet Isaiah says to the city of Jerusalem: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Having accepted Christ (the light of the world) and rejected the devil (sin, evil, darkness) in the sacrament of baptism, we Christians have become the New Jerusalem to the world.

Hence, Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the world's light. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16).

The best sermons are not preached not with words but with actions. When we behave like Christ, words are no longer necessary. The scandal of Christianity today is that Christians no longer behave like those believers in Antioch who were first called Christians. In Antioch, the believers were of one heart and soul; love was the watchword.

The early group of believers quickly increased in number because their behaviour inspired the world. Today, apart from dressing up to attend Church on Sunday, there is not much difference between us and the rest of the world.

2. Our Hearts Are Cold: We Need Revival
How do you light a candle that no longer shines? You bring it close to another candle that is already shining. Our situation today is similar to that of the disciples in today’s Gospel passage. They were confused and troubled. They didn’t know whether to run away from Jerusalem or to stay. They had not yet gotten over the shock of the events of Jesus’s passion, death and resurrection. They still wondered: “If He truly is God, why did He suffer?”

Jesus revived the disciples by opening their minds to understand the scriptures. It is one thing to know what is written in the Bible but a different thing to understand its meaning. These disciples knew the scriptures but needed someone to explain them in a way that made sense. In his message for World Mission Sunday, 2023, Pope Francis tells us that when Jesus explained the scriptures to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, they confessed: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). After hearing Jesus explain the scriptures, their feet were set to move towards Jerusalem and no longer away from it.

Like the disciples of Jesus, many Christians today are disillusioned by the economic situation of our country, Nigeria. Life has become very hard. Many families are struggling to provide one square meal a day. The question on the minds of many is: “If God exists, why does He keep quiet and allow His children to suffer like this in this country?” At this point, we turn to God for revival. As the Psalmist today prays: “O God, be gracious and bless us and let your face shed its light upon us. So will your ways be known upon earth, and all nations learn your salvation.”

In our confusion and coldness, we ask Jesus to speak to us through our preachers. In today’s second reading, St. Paul says: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” We pray for the grace of God to become preachers to our brothers and sisters everywhere.

Brief Reflection for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A): The Tax Belongs To Caesar, but Caesar Belongs To God
Last Sunday, Jesus described heaven as a banquet to which special guests were invited, only for them to turn down the invitation at the last hour. While so many were entering God’s kingdom, the Jewish religious leaders (the special guests) sought how to bring Jesus down. They did not know that they were dealing with God before whom all human wisdom is dust. Jesus used the occasion to teach some important lessons:

1. Be Careful When You See Rivals Working Together. The Pharisees were against the payment of taxes because it was a sign of religious domination by the Romans. Meanwhile, the Herodians were entirely in support of the payment of taxes. If Jesus had answered “Yes” or “No”, he would have sparked off religious sentiments among the Pharisees or civil action by the Herodians. This is the extent to which people are willing to go to pull us down, but in such moments as this, let us remember to call on God for Divine assistance.

2. Avoid Persons who Flatter You. By praising Jesus, they hoped to relax him so he would speak without first thinking thoroughly. We must be cautious of those who come to us praising us. As the saying goes: “It is not all that glitters that is gold.”

3. Worshipping God Does Not Mean We Should Disrespect Civil Authorities. As Jesus puts it, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that belong to God”, meaning that as long as we render God the worship due to Him, it is not a sin to pay taxes. For Jesus, even though He had no business paying taxes as the Son of God, there was no need to offend. We learn from Jesus to obey civil authorities.

4. Even Caesar Himself Belongs to God. When we respect civil authorities, we are also giving respect to God by whose power these persons got into such positions. Isaiah describes Cyrus as God’s anointed. Writing to Timothy, St. Paul tells us: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions...” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, help me to choose you above the world. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (World Mission Sunday. Bible Study Isaiah 60:1-6, Ps. 67:2-3.5,7-8, Romans 10:9-18, Luke 24:44-53).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu