Daily Mass Reflections - 8/13
OK so what’s going on in today’s Gospel (Matthew 17:22-27)?
Well we certainly encounter Jesus foreshadowing what will be his cruel passion, death and resurrection in the opening stages of the passage. We are told in response, the disciples, perhaps confused, scared and distressed, were overwhelmed with grief.
From there, the journey takes Jesus and his disciples to Capernaum, where Peter is immediately hassled by the collector of the temple tax and the question is posed to him “Does your teacher pay the temple tax?” to which Peter responds very matter of factly, “Yes.” From there, after a brief discourse in which Jesus and Peter discuss the finer points of taxation and coming to the logical conclusion that they are in fact exempt from any such tax, Jesus instructs Peter accordingly:
“But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you."
Is Jesus perhaps enjoying a joke with Peter in response to the temple tax collectors and their rigid obsession with the strict rule of law? As we know throughout Scripture, Jesus’ message and ministry was always rooted in love, forgiveness and service, leaving the nickel & dime (pardon the pun) trivialities to those who were forever preoccupied with them. Jesus wants us to be freed of earthly fixations, irritations and trivialities that distract us from the fundamental task of growing in love and of playing our part in promoting the kingdom of God as well, and we do so by surrendering our lives to him with total confidence in the love and grace he gives us. As Saint Ignatius once pointed out, these are the only two things we need in order to live in blissful happiness.
Today’s Responsorial Psalm reminds us that “heaven and earth are full of your glory.” We’d all be well advised to leave the insignificant burdens that we oftentimes devote far too much energy to and spend more time basking in that blessed reality.