Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday, October 22, 2023

This Sunday’s Readings

First Reading
Isaiah 45:1,4-6
The Lord chooses Cyrus to subdue the nations for the sake of Israel.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 96:1,3-10
Sing praise to the Lord.

Second Reading
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Paul greets the Thessalonians, recalling the Gospel they received.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees send their disciples to test Jesus with a question about taxes.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In today’s Gospel Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem continue their tense exchange of questions and challenges. At this point the disciples of the Pharisees, together with the Herodians, try to entrap Jesus by their question about the payment of taxes.

Matthew sets up an unusual partnership between the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Herodians were supporters of Herod Antipas, a Jewish political leader who collaborated with the Romans. Such collaboration would have required a compromised observance of the Mosaic Law. The Pharisees, on the other hand, taught scrupulous observance of the Mosaic Law and opposed Roman occupation. Herodians favored the payment of taxes; the Pharisees opposed it. The Herodians and the Pharisees approach Jesus, asking that he take sides in their dispute. If Jesus answers with the Pharisees, he shows himself to be an enemy of Rome. If he answers with the Herodians, he offends popular Jewish religious sensibilities.

Jesus’ response to this attempt to trap him exposes the guile of his questioners. From his first words to them, Jesus shows that he is very much aware of what they are trying to do. He asks to see a Roman coin, which is readily provided to him. It may have come from the hand of a Herodian, but the Pharisees show themselves to be quite willing to accept this compromise. Jesus has already exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites.

Jesus takes his response one step further. He asks that his questioners examine the coin. Agreeing that it is Caesar’s image on the coin, Jesus tells them that it must belong to Caesar. Avoiding the question of lawfulness altogether, Jesus answers their question with simple logic. Then, going further still, Jesus tells them that their obligation is to pay to God that which belongs to God.

Jesus’ response to the Herodians and Pharisees suggests the ethic that Christians ought to adopt. It reminds us of the importance of keeping things in their proper perspective. Do we attach ourselves to worldly things at the expense of the love and honor that we owe to God?

Gospel Reading
Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees send their disciples to test Jesus with a question about taxes.

Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

Teach younger children that as Jesus’ disciples, we are called to follow God’s law and the law of our government.

Materials Needed

  • picture of a STOP sign, a sign that says “Love your neighbor”

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Show children the two signs. Hold up the picture of the STOP sign. Say: If your parents were driving and came to this sign, what would they do? (They would stop.) Ask: Can anyone name other road signs and what they mean? (Accept reasonable answers. If children aren’t familiar with road signs, ask them to tell you what red, yellow, and green mean on a traffic light.) Ask: Who makes the rules for the road? (the government) Are we supposed to follow these rules? (Yes.) Say: Following these rules keeps us safe.
  2. Hold up the second sign and say: The commandment to love our neighbors doesn’t come from the government. Ask: Whose rule is this? (God’s rule) Say: We follow God’s rule when we love God and our neighbors. God’s rules teach us how to live in good, loving relationship with God and others.
  3. Say: In this week’s Gospel, some people ask Jesus a question about taxes. They want to know if he thinks they should follow the government’s law or God’s law. Listen to how Jesus responds to the question.
  4. Read today’s Gospel, Matthew 22:15–21.
  5. Ask: How did Jesus respond to the people’s question about paying taxes? (He said to pay taxes to government and to obey God’s laws.)
  6. Say: We are to obey God’s law, but we are also to follow the government’s laws. We are not allowed to break the law.
  7. Pray for help in following God’s law and the laws of our government. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees send their disciples to test Jesus with a question about taxes.

Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

Older children can find it a challenge to keep the many important aspects of their lives in balance and in perspective. We can help them learn this life skill and help them learn to keep God first in their lives.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group: What are some things that young people can become preoccupied with? (grades, athletics, popularity, food, money) What happens when people give these things too much attention? (They may neglect other things that are also important.)

  2. Say: In today’s Gospel Jesus is asked whether it is lawful to pay taxes to the Romans. The questioners were trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would be unlawful to either Romans or to strict Jews like the Pharisees. But Jesus shows that he is cleverer than his questioners. He responds in a way that makes them look foolish; he reminds us of what is more important than the question of paying taxes. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read Matthew 22:15-21.

  4. Ask: How did Jesus answer the question he was asked? (Pay taxes because that is what is due to the government.) What did he say is most important? (to obey God)

  5. Say: The Pharisees and Herodians who questioned Jesus showed themselves to be more preoccupied with rules than with the thing that is most important—our love for God. The things we mentioned earlier (grades, popularity, athletics, food, money) are all important. But if we become preoccupied with these things, we may forget what is most important—to love and honor God.

  6. Conclude with a prayer that encourages the group to remember that God should hold the place of greatest importance in their lives. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees send their disciples to test Jesus with a question about taxes.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Loyalty, especially to one’s peer group, is an admired quality to young people at this age. This Sunday’s Gospel reading provides an opportunity to help them understand that loyalty to God requires giving to God what is due to God.

Materials Needed

  • Copies of the Act of Contrition

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask: Do you know what a trick question is? (a question that is intended to mislead the respondent so that he or she answers incorrectly)

  2. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, the Pharisees ask Jesus a trick question in hopes of injuring his credibility and getting him into trouble.

  3. Ask a volunteer to read aloud the first part of the Gospel, Matthew 22:15-17. Pause before Jesus answers the Pharisees.

  4. Say: If Jesus says that the tax should be paid to Caesar, he would be considered guilty of false worship since the Romans believe the emperor to be divine. On the other hand, if Jesus says the tax should not be paid, he would be encouraging disobedience to Roman laws, which would be sedition.

  5. Ask: What do you think the Pharisees hoped that Jesus would say? (something that would get him into trouble)

  6. Ask another volunteer to finish reading aloud the Gospel, Matthew 22:18-21.

  7. Ask: What do you think Jesus meant when he told the Pharisees to give God what was due to God? (to be loyal to God)

  8. Say: Think about the times when you do not give God what is due to God. Even though there are times when we are not the person that God wants us to be—when we are not loyal to God—we can always ask forgiveness.

  9. Distribute copies of the Act of Contrition; invite the young people to join you in praying it aloud.

  10. Say: When you are faced with choices this week, think about whether or not your decisions will honor your loyalty to God.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees send their disciples to test Jesus with a question about taxes.

Family Connection

Payment of taxes is unlikely to be a disputed issue in your family. Yet families can still learn something from this Gospel reading. Jesus’ answer to the Herodians and Pharisees redirects their question to focus on the issue of greatest importance: loving and honoring God. Taking this perspective can help us make good judgments about the competing issues of importance in our lives.

As your family gathers, make a list of the activities that your family spends time doing together, such as household tasks, jobs, academics, and recreational activities. Talk about the importance of each of these activities. Ask what would happen if there were an imbalance in our attention to these activities and we spent too much time on one activity at the expense of another.

In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us of the necessity of giving things their proper importance. Read Matthew 22:15-21. The Herodians and Pharisees were giving too much importance to the issue of the payment of taxes. Jesus reminds them that loving and honoring God is of greater importance. In family life we do many important things, but we remember that God is of the greatest importance in our lives. Pray together that your family will learn to keep things in proper perspective, remembering to keep God first in your lives. Pray together today’s psalm, Psalm 96.