Gifts from heritage.

“Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that He said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Today, our Church celebrates Heritage Sunday. Scripture provides reasons to celebrate this particular aspect of God’s creation.

When our Church was organized, it took care to stress the fact that God makes Himself and His teaching manifest through the use of nations and peoples.  Each nation is given gifts, unique perspectives and charisms that, when shared, enrich our faith in Jesus and teach us more about Him. We are called to respect, cherish, and celebrate what God has created and to learn from it.

Jesus came to God’s own people, the Jewish nation, to reveal all that God is and to call them to walk in the Way of the Gospel. They were called to see kingdom already but not yet fully present. Then, they were to cooperate in bringing the Kingdom of God to completion.

Paul, in writing to the Church at Galatia, reminds the gentiles that the Gospel preached to the Children of Abraham contained within it the promise that through them, all nations would be blessed (Galatians 3:8). The scriptural promise is fulfilled in that Abraham becomes the father of many nations.

While each nation has: allotted periods and boundaries, as well as the call to seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him (Acts 17:26-27), scripture also calls us to use great care in recognizing that we are citizens of heaven. Thus, we are never to place nation over God, or over the Holy Church, or over our call to first a foremost find our way toward God.

So, our Church set out to do exactly that. We honor heritage and all nations as a gift and as a means by which we find our way to God and build His kingdom.

Instructive in the way God works through nations is our first reading. Cyrus was called by God to free the people of Israel. Cyrus did not know God. As ruler over many nations he saw many gods and forms of worship. Cyrus himself likely worshiped Marduk. Yet, God used him and his nation to free and restore Israel.

Jesus understood that we will be established in nations as a means by which the Gospel is known and experienced. No one nation is good, and in all cases, we are to maintain perspective. Practical societal requirements (like taxes), are not what is important. Our growth in knowing God, appreciating His gits, and in building His kingdom, which has no coins, is what matters.

Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Heritage Sunday

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Celebrating heritage
Making God known to all

Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

St. Paul calls us to remain faithful. Faith is imparted to us by our hearing, by someone who proclaims and models faith for us. This is not any faith – but faith in the one true source of salvation who is Jesus Christ.

Jesus told His apostles and disciples: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.

Someone had to inform us of this fact. Indeed they did – the apostles and disciples set out to every corner of the world and proclaimed what they had seen and heard. They spoke it, they held the liturgy – bringing the sacraments to all, and they witnessed to the truth of Christ by offering their lives without fear. These witnesses, mostly uneducated and formerly fearful, brought the faith to every nation.

Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301. Tiridates III was the first ruler to officially Christianize his people predating the date of Constantine the Great’s personal acceptance of Christianity on behalf of the Roman Empire. Subsequently many nations adopted Christianity and assumed the role of imparting the faith to their people. A mosaic of peoples and cultures went on to make salvation known through faith in Jesus known.

Bishop Hodur saw nations as a tool in God’s hands. Each people is endowed with specific gifts and insights that add to the totality of Christian evangelism.

Religion cannot espouse the dissolution of national and cultural boundaries as its goal — an argument made by those who define everything in terms of separation. Our faith, and the expression of our faith – our religion – is focused on making Jesus known through the gift of nations and cultures. Nations and cultures speak of God who works through them to fulfill Jesus’ command to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

God speaks to and values every nation and culture. He works through them to make His will known, to offer salvation to every person.

Today we celebrate the individual heritage of every nation and culture. We celebrate the gifts God has given us – those gifts intended to make salvation known, to bring all to know and worship Him who created us for His purpose.