29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023
With the war raging on between Israel and Palestine with no end in sight there have been many stories in the news about how people are being affected by it. Like this one that moved me deeply.
Shoshanah and her son Andrew of Huntington, West Virginia are dual citizens of the United States and Israel. Andrew just completed his military service in Israel, and both were shocked by the recent attack there.
Shoshanah's heart aches; she said, "Every bite I take during Shabbat dinner will be mixed with tears."
Andrew, recalling his time in the military, said, "We didn’t really think that we’d have to go through that. We saw our own brothers lying in the street; that hurts."
Their plea is simple: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem."
This story touches on a tension we all feel—the tension of living with dual citizenship. When I say 'dual citizenship,' I'm speaking of the spiritual tension we experience by being citizens of both our earthly homeland and our eternal home in Heaven.
In today's Gospel from Matthew, Jesus addresses a similar tension. When asked if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, He replies, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s."
This isn’t just about taxes; it's about understanding where our ultimate loyalties should lie. We have duties as citizens of our countries, but our first allegiance is to God and His Kingdom.
Shoshanah and Andrew feel the weight of dual citizenship deeply. They're torn between two places they deeply love: the United States and Israel.
This emotional conflict is not unlike the tension many of us feel as Christians. We are caught between our immediate, earthly concerns and our overarching, eternal commitments.
Just as Andrew felt obligated to his friends and comrades in Israel, we too have earthly obligations to our families, communities, and even our nation.
But like Shoshanah's plea to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem," our deepest allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, where peace, justice, and love reign supreme.
In our first reading from Isaiah, we hear about Cyrus, a Persian king. Remarkably, God calls him 'His anointed,' even though Cyrus did not worship the God of Israel.
God uses Cyrus to fulfill a divine purpose: to free the Israelites and to show that God is the one true God over all nations and kings.
This is another example of dual citizenship. Just as Cyrus had a role to play in God's plan, so do we, even as we navigate the challenges of our earthly citizenship.
So, as we go into this week, I invite you to reflect on your own dual citizenship.
How are you balancing your responsibilities and allegiances to both your earthly home and your heavenly home?
How can you serve God's Kingdom while fulfilling your duties here on Earth?
You might be a teacher, shaping young minds while also volunteering at your parish’s Sunday school.
Or perhaps you're a business owner, striving for success but also ensuring that your practices are ethical and that you give back to your community.
You could be a student, juggling the pressures of academic life while also taking time for prayer and service.
In each of these roles, there is a dual responsibility: to perform our earthly duties well, while also striving to live out the Gospel in all we do.
Let us pray for the grace to navigate this tension faithfully and, yes, as citizens of the United States, and the Kingdom of God, let’s pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the whole world.