“What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take a toll or tribute? From their sons or others?’ And when he said, ‘From others,’ Jesus said, ‘Then the sons are free.’ (Matthew 17:25-26)
When some tax collectors approached Peter, Jesus addressed his disciples about his imminent arrest, death and resurrection. They asked: “Does not your teacher pay the tax?” Peter responded: “Yes.” Jesus was not with Peter when this happened but was aware of their conversation.
This teaches us that God is never far from us. As the Psalmist says, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You discern my thoughts from far away when I sit down and rise. You search out my path, and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.” (Psalm 139:1-4)
Jesus asked Peter, “From whom do kings of the earth take taxes? From their children or others?” Peter said: “From others.” In other words, Jesus is not supposed to pay the temple tax as the Son of God. However, to avoid offending anyone, Jesus instructed Peter on how to get a shekel from a fish in the lake so he would pay the tax.
This attitude of Jesus teaches us a great lesson: Even if we are right, there is no need to offend anyone. It is not enough to do what is right; we must refrain from sending the wrong message to those who may not understand us. Like Jesus, who presented himself for baptism even though he was sinless, we must strive to fulfil all righteousness. Hence, even though we do not belong to this world, we cannot evade the payment of taxes.
In today’s first reading, Moses says to us: “What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I command you this day for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).
While we strive to love God with all our hearts, let us remember that we would be deceiving ourselves if we claimed to love God and yet, hate our fellow brothers and sisters. Today, we remember St. Maximilian Kolbe. In 1941, he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where he continued to work as a priest and offer solace to fellow inmates in terrible circumstances. When the Nazi guards selected ten people to be starved to death as punishment, Kolbe volunteered to die in place of a stranger. He was later canonised as a martyr. St. Maximilian Kolbe practically demonstrated what it means to love God with all our hearts, minds and souls.
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, deepen my longing for heaven daily. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Deuteronomy 10:12-22, Ps. 147:12-15,19-20, Matthew 17:22-27).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu