Hi everyone here is my homily for OCTOBER 16, 2011 the 29th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at: Thanks as always for your feedback and comments.
– Announcement: If you wish to join in the Novena to Blessed John Paul II (who’s feast day we celebrate for the First Time ever this Saturday, October 22nd) check the Newman Catholic at Montclair State University website at
Fr. Jim Chern


The closest I ever was to being “truant” or intentionally “tardy” for school was with my two older brothers. I was in 7th Grade, My brother Craig was in 10th and oldest brother Chris was a senior in High School. It was a February morning… a day after a snow storm had kept us home all day and it was a Wednesday. I remembered that because it wasn’t just any Wednesday – it was Ash Wednesday. My mother had looked at the Church Bulletin and noticed that there was a 8:00 Mass in the morning. She raced us out the door at 7:45 so that we could get to St. Agnes in time for the 8:00 Mass (the Church wasn’t even a 5 minute car ride from our home) And she gave us each a note for being late (Since Home Room was 8:20, we were going to be a few minutes late – maybe miss a few minutes of first period since she told us to leave Mass after communion – something I DO NOT ENCOURAGE!)

It’s amazing how quickly with my oldest brother driving, and the three of us not in any hurry to get to school, that other options came to mind. Truth be told, and not to make my brothers look badly, but they weren’t exactly interested in going to Mass at all. So when my brother decided to take the long route to St. Agnes (actually going out of his way and driving passed his high school and my middle school) I wasn’t shocked. And with the streets still in bad condition, the longer route was taking even longer than usual. So we were already late for 8:00 Mass. That’s when I, very helpfully, offered that there was also a 9:00 Mass that we could attend. In fact that was the school Mass, with Music and everything – so we could be sure that it might even go to 9:45… even 10 if we lit a candle and said a prayer at one of the shrines (which we did until one older parishioner came over and said “don’t you guys think you better be heading to school?”). We easily missed the first two periods of the day (I was hoping to miss part of the third period which was Math) We told ourselves that we were good Catholics – had to get to Mass for Ash Wednesday right? And we completely got away with it. Ashened headed with notes from Mom there was no questions asked when I got to school (I skipped going along with my brothers who decided they had to go to the Diner after Mass… even though Chris made a compelling argument that breakfast is the most important meal of the day…forgetting of course that since it was Ash Wednesday we were supposed to fast, but…)

In the grand scheme of things, I know it’s not the most earth-shattering act of disobedience that one could commit. Sadly, I can give countless examples that were even worse that my brothers and I did. But there’s something about this one that always bothered me – still bothers me to this day. Sure I regret our being dishonest to my parents, teachers and all. But the thing that really makes this stand out is the fact that we used God, simply so we could be late for school.

The idea of “using God” isn’t something that the Chern boy’s invented. Not by a long shot. We see that is at play in this Gospel… the pivotal question in this encounter “is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” was simply designed to stir up opposition against Jesus. If Jesus said Yes then the Roman officials could move in against this radical revolutionary who threatened their civil authority. If Jesus said No, then the Jews of that day would have people arguing that he was siding with the Romans, the very people that had taken over their land. Even more, if Jesus gave some support to the idea of taxes, state, Roman authority – for many, that was seen as violating the commandment to love, to serve, to obey God alone. Not quite a popular view to most Jews. So Jesus’ opponents are trying to be clever and they try to use God and their covenant with Him – not just to get out of paying taxes but even worse as a means of trying to eliminate Jesus, the Son of God simply so they could continue what they wanted – to maintain their positions of power and influence.

Interestingly though, if we dig at this a bit deeper. We realize that Jesus isn’t simply delivering a clever dig at his opponents (he is) But in the process Jesus tries to move them from asking about loopholes, responsibilities, obligations and says – well since you brought the question of God up What do we owe God? How does being a member of the Kingdom of God affect all aspects of our lives?

Because the thing is, by asking the question about whether to pay the tax to Caesar or not the opponents of Jesus revealed something more about themselves. In choosing to have the coins with Caesar on it, they had chosen to be a part of the empire. They were utilizing the form of currency of their oppressors. So even though they complained about being “occupied”; they had already compromised their identity as God’s people by buying into the Roman economy.

Both the Old and New testaments talk about the need for us to be detached from the things, the structures, the institutions of this world, recognizing where our true citizenship lies. That we are to live as members of the Kingdom of God. Jesus points out in His clever response to their questioning that if we chose to engage the things of this world – we’re free to do so – then we have obligations and responsibilities to them. We can’t then try to turn it around and claim that with God the Father as our true King, that we don’t have to fulfill these earthly obligations that we’ve entered into. And that doesn’t exclude us from our ultimate responsibilities to God. The Ten Commandments don’t come second to The Constitution. The call to “tithe” our time, talent and treasure to God doesn’t disappear because our expenses (or our desires for things) cost more.

God must always come first. In Jesus telling us to “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” – is a nicer way of saying we need to stop trying to use God as an out when it’s convenient and recognize our obligation is to serve Him.