First reading: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95(96):1, 3-5, 7-10.
Second reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5.
Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21.
Link to readings.
The readings this week all focus on the one God who rules the whole world.
In the First Reading, the Jews, who believed in one God, are shown how he is able to use unexpected people to do his work - even the pagan king Cyrus.
The Psalm is a call to worship God as the true King, ruler of Israel and of all the world:'The Gods of the heathens are naught'.
St Paul, in the Second Reading, also focuses on the one God, the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. It is through God's love that the people of Thessalonica have received the Good News.They worked and persevered in hope, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, in the Gospel, we find the Pharisees (traditional nationalist Jews) and their unlikely allies, the Herodians (who accepted Roman rule), attempting to trap Jesus. Which one - God or the Roman Emperor, Caesar - was the greater? To whom should they pay their taxes? Jesus's answer was likely to upset one party or the other; however, he knows how to defuse this explosive situation.'Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar - and to God what belongs to God'.
Perhaps this week, we might reflect on the rulers of our world, the good and the bad, and pray for them - remembering that God can work through them as he worked through Cyrus and Caesar.
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
I settle down, perhaps in a favourite chair, in a place where I like to pray.
I ask the Lord to help me become quiet to hear what he wants to tell me today. I take a deep breath, hold it for a few moments and then breathe normally.
As I slowly read the text, perhaps several times, what strikes me particularly? I stop and remain with that word or phrase.
How does it make me feel?
Perhaps I am struck by God's relationship with Cyrus, the pagan, who unexpectedly encouraged the exiled Israelites to return home.
God chooses the most unlikely persons to do his work on earth. In what ways does it challenge my expectations of who the People of God are?
To what extent do I see encouragement and hope in this for me?
'There is no other God beside me...' Maybe my initial response to this is 'of course'... but I may also feel drawn to reflect on whether there are not 'other Gods' in my own life: my job, my car, my computer, social networks... or...?
I speak to the Lord about this simply, in my own words, and I listen.
When the time comes to conclude my prayer, I slowly gather my thoughts. I thank the Lord for any insights he has given me, perhaps repeating to myself as I leave my place of prayer:
'Apart from God, all is nothing.'
I may like to begin my prayer time by becoming aware of my surroundings and everything around me: the sounds... the patterns of light... the scents and smells... the warmth or coolness... God's creation.
I become still and slowly read the Gospel text several times. I ask God to speak to me through today's reading.
It could help my prayer to imagine being in the scene with Jesus. Who am I ...? One of the Pharisees or their disciples... one of Jesus's disciples... one of the crowd...
I accompany and speak to the characters.
What do I notice about Jesus? Perhaps his presence, his clarity of thinking and wisdom... or maybe another quality speaks to me? How do I feel in the presence of a courageous, challenging Jesus?
I speak to him, perhaps telling him about the pressures on me to do the 'right thing'... the blindness, the worldly fears and worries that prevent me from giving to God what belongs to God.
He knows, he understands; I listen to him.
When I am ready to take my leave, I do so slowly and prayerfully. I thank the Lord for His presence with me today.
Prepared by St Beuno's Outreach in the Diocese of Wrexham