'[The Pharisees said,] "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor?" Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test? Give to the emperor the things that are [his], and to God the things that are God's"...' -- Mt 22:17-21

The first reading we proclaim this Sunday (Is 45:1,4-6) describes something very curious: the Lord speaking to His anointed, Cyrus.

Who is Cyrus? Perhaps our initial guesses would be that he was a prophet or king of Israel, but we would be wrong or half-correct: Cyrus was a king in Persia in 539-570 BC, while the Jews were in exile.

Why would the prophet Isaiah describe the Lord speaking to this pagan king? Isn't he the enemy, the oppressor? Why would the Lord refer to Cyrus with the term "anointed," which, in Greek, is analogous to the term, "Christ," which means "anointed one?"

This must be a mistake. Cyrus is a foreigner, a non-Jew, an unbeliever.

Yet, the Lord says: "I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not." Cyrus is still in the service of the Lord, because he is in the service of the people of Israel.

Isaiah's prophecy predicts that Cyrus will be the one to free the Jews. Note that most Scripture scholars put Isaiah's prophecy concerning Cyrus about 150 years before Cyrus was born! King Cyrus is the one who permits the Jews to return home to Jerusalem and assists them in the rebuilding of the temple under Ezra and Zerubbabel.

Cyrus and us
Cyrus, a non-Jew, becomes the agent of the Lord. What can we glean for our spiritual life? Perhaps this: the Lord is always helping us, always looking out for us, always caring for us.

He does this in so many ways! He sends people into our lives, "angels in disguise," even the people whom we would never suspect - even non-believers!

Therefore, a question: Are we open and attentive to the Lord and His love for us as He reveals it through the people in our lives? In light of Sunday's Gospel (Mt 22:15-21), do we pray for those who are in public office, so they might be able to guide the nation in ways of truth and mercy?

Our duty
Listen to the words of St. Paul (1 Th 1:-5): "We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen."

Even Cyrus, a pagan king, could be the "anointed" of God. Be open to all of good will and pray for them. it's our Christian duty!