The First Reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. The Prophet has been given a message from God to Cyrus, King of Persia, who has just defeated the King of Babylonia in the 6th century BC. The great Persian Emperor Cyrus will be made part of God’s saving plan for His chosen people. Cyrus is told that it was by the hand of God that he was successful in his battles and that God will use him to great advantage if he follows God's instructions. What makes this decree extraordinary is that it is addressed to a pagan king, Cyrus who was not a Jew, but he recognized true authority when faced with it and, in humility, he bowed in favor of the God of the Israelites.
The Second Reading is from St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians. For the next five weeks, the second reading will be from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. The tone of the book is warm, tender, and positive. In these opening verses, Paul warmly thanks God for the way the Thessalonians are growing in faith, hope, and charity. Being faithful to God and His will or instructions comes to us in many ways as Paul points out to his helpers, Silvanus, and Timothy. If we are in tune with God's Holy Spirit, He will help us in our efforts toward faithfulness. He reminds them that their conversion is due to the power of the Holy Spirit working through him.
The Gospel Reading is from Matthew. In today’s Gospel or entrapment story, the Pharisees and the Herodians ask Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?” The question is put to Jesus to see whether he would declare himself on the side of the Pharisees who oppose paying taxes to the Romans, or on the side of the Herodians who collaborate with the Romans. Jesus asks for a coin: “Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Jesus is telling the Pharisees that even when we disagree or dislike some law or instruction if it comes from the lawful authority we must obey. To disregard lawful authority is unlawful and to disregard the teachings or instructions of God and His Church is wrong. After all, God is the ultimate authority.