August 11, 2008
Saint Clare, virgin. Memorial
Matthew 17: 22-27
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, "Doesn't 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."
Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I believe in your presence here with me as I begin this moment of prayer. I hope in you. I know that you will always take care of me. I want this time with you to be a sign of my love for you. I seek only to please you, without desiring any spiritual consolation for myself.
Petition: Father, help me to have Christ more and more in the center of my life.
1. Apostolic Grief. Jesus’ predicts his death, and the apostles, not understanding what “raised on the third day” means, are overwhelmed with grief. What could be more human, more natural? The thought of losing a friend is tough; the thought of losing Christ is devastating. Since we know the whole story, we know we can’t lose Christ through death. But we can lose him through sin – that should always have us on guard. No grief could be greater than losing Christ this way.
2. The Master’s Example. The apostles grieved because they loved Jesus; more and more he was becoming the center of their lives. He was their point of reference for everything. So the fact that Peter immediately responds “yes” to the question about the temple tax indicates something important about Jesus. He was not a revolutionary, someone who enjoyed overturning the established rules on a personal whim. Quite the contrary; as he said earlier in the Gospel of Matthew, “I have come to fulfill the law, not to destroy it.” But Jesus loathed hypocrisy: thinking that one’s holiness was assured by publicly fulfilling the rules of religious practice while neglecting to cultivate the authentic interior dispositions that should accompany it. We shouldn’t be content with a “check-box” religion. Let’s focus on love, more than on obligation!
3. Fishing for Jesus Peter’s implied fishing expedition is quite an unusual story. It is the only miracle story that involves money. But for a money miracle, it is extremely modest; Peter won’t find the winning Mega Bonanza Lottery ticket when he opens the fish, but merely a coin – just enough to cover the temple tax for Jesus and Peter. Since Jesus is the center of the apostles’ lives and his example is what they always look to, perhaps Jesus is trying to keep the apostles’ expectations in check. They won’t get rich following Christ, but God will provide for their needs. They just have to trust, and the Lord in his providence will never let them down!
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, the apostles can’t bear the thought of losing you, and neither can I. Help me to reject sin as the true enemy of my soul. Sin is the only thing that could drive a wedge between you and me. I want to be sincere in living my faith and always trusting in your providence.
Resolution: I will send in a charitable contribution to my parish or other charity and trust in God’s providence to provide for my needs.
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