Ps 147:12-15, 19-20
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee,
Jesus said to them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,
and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”
And they were overwhelmed with grief.
When they came to Capernaum,
the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said,
“Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes,” he said.
When he came into the house, before he had time to speak,
Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon?
From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax?
From their subjects or from foreigners?”
When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him,
“Then the subjects are exempt.
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.”
Good News Reflection: The Lord of unfair situations
The miracle in today’s Gospel — paying taxes with the help of a fish — is an example of how Jesus likes to deal with unfair situations. Did Jesus already have money for paying the temple tax? Maybe he did — how much was in that purse that Judas carried for the group? Perhaps it held only enough to buy the apostles food for that day, but this is not the explanation that Jesus gave for the miracle.
Jesus told Simon Peter to go fetch the tax payment from a fish because he wanted to teach a lesson. He addressed the unfairness of demanding from your own people what should have been asked of others.
Have you ever been called upon to do extra work because someone else didn’t do his or her job? Perhaps you’re over-involved in ministries at church because there are not enough other volunteers. Or maybe your kid is too lazy to take out the trash and you end up doing it yourself to prevent a stinky overflow.
How many unfair, extra demands do we have to deal with? A lot, sometimes every day, right? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to go the extra mile and do what we shouldn’t have to do. He certainly practised what he preached when he paid the temple tax. Why should God have to pay for his own worship? But he did. Why? To avoid “offending” or “disedifying” those who demanded the tax.
Jesus was (and is) just as concerned for those who are unfair as for those who are treated unfairly. He wants to build up (“edify”) — he never wants to tear down — anyone and everyone.
Note that the way he did it not only protected the tax collectors from being disedified, but he also protected himself from being disedified as well as his companions. The tax money did not come from his pocket, or Peter’s, or Judas’ purse. God supplied a miracle that met the needs of everyone.
Will he do the same for you today? Of course he will. He cares about you as much as he cared about Peter. Instead of trying to find a way out of an unfair situation, instead of demanding justice, turn to God. To be Christ-like, ask Jesus to provide a solution that will edify everyone. And then expect the unexpected.
This takes a great deal of trust. How did Peter feel on the way to the lake? Did he doubt Jesus while he was fishing? Knowing how easily he wavered at other times, I think he questioned the Lord’s sanity. Yet, he did as Jesus had directed him to do. That’s our example. We need to go fishing with God and be ready to find what does not belong in the fish’s mouth. That is the perfect and most loving way to deal with unfairness.
Praised be You, my Lord, because while human justice oppresses us, Your justice helps us in unexpected and wonderful ways. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica