“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” goes the well-known saying. The Jewish people would certainly agree in the case of Cyrus the Great. When the Babylonians conquered Judah, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple and drove the Jewish people into exile. When the Persian army defeated the Babylonian army in 539 BC, Cyrus was seen as a savior. Cyrus was able to build an empire because he respected the traditions and customs of the defeated peoples, including their religious practices. Therefore, he allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and worship freely. The freedom Cyrus allowed his subjects became a model for leaders and governments for millennia. The Jewish people at that time did not have the power to defeat their oppressors, so they needed the strength of their enemy’s enemy. Believing God to be behind all things, they concluded that Cyril’s power—and benevolence—must come from God.
Scripture scholars tell us that Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians was probably written earlier than any other book of the New Testament, just twenty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Today we hear its initial verses. In the very first verse Paul refers to that community as a church. It is a forerunner of what has become the Church, a Christian community of thousands of dioceses, hundreds of thousands of parishes, and over a billion people.
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” was a wise response by Jesus to the Pharisees who sought to entrap him (Matthew 22:21). It also provides a wise perspective to us today. What belongs to our Caesars? For that matter, what belongs to us? We are all just temporary caretakers of all that we have. In the entire history of humankind, we occupy a relatively infinitesimal amount of time and space. All that we own, all that we earn, all that we have, is just rented to us. We surrender it all when we die. So what belongs to God? All comes from God and all goes to God, so ultimately all things belong to God.
Fr. Gerard Lecomte
CJM Pastoral Patterns Summer 2020