Reflection by Kathryn Mulderink
Today’s Gospel: Matthew 17:22-27
On the surface of this Gospel Jesus seems to talk about people sideways and then finish with a kind of “trick” to take care of things, just so everyone knows who is really in charge.
But let’s take a closer look.
Those responsible for collecting the temple tax approach Peter to ask whether this wandering rabbi will pay his tax. In doing so, they acknowledge that Peter is the one who speaks for the group. Peter goes into the house and Jesus asks him a question in order to teach a necessary lesson. Peter answers that customs and tributes are only paid by foreigners; the members of the royal family are exempt. As Peter just recently confessed the divine sonship of Jesus, and the apostles are now “adopted sons,” they should not be required to pay any temple tax.
What should be done? Would paying the tax be a capitulation on Jesus’ part, suggesting He is not, after all, the Son of God, and “greater than the temple,” as He states elsewhere? On the other hand, would failing to pay the tax cause scandal to those who do not yet know who He is?
As always, Jesus resolves the issue without compromise. Submitting their New Covenant freedom to the regulations of the Old, Jesus sends Peter fishing; the amount for the tax is waiting in the mouth of the first catch: one coin that is exactly enough to pay for both Jesus and Peter.
Two things can be drawn from this:
• By “finding” the tax money in the fish, rather than taking it from the apostolic purse, Jesus has avoided any scandal while yielding nothing in principle.
• By paying for both Peter and Jesus with a single coin, the union between Jesus and His vicar is highlighted.
How can we live more fully as adopted children of the Eternal Father, Who gives us life, salvation, and the Church, through which we receive the sacraments which nourish and strengthen us?
Lord, give us the grace to render unto Caesar what is necessary, but to prioritize our citizenship in the household of God above all.
Copyright 2019 Kathryn Mulderink
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