Monday, August 12, 2013

“Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.”

“The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount…If we don’t have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the State.” – Harry S. Truman 33rd President of the United States

Gospel Text: (MT 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,
“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

Life throws a lot at us – most good, but some not so. As frustrating as these events may be at times, I think we can take a lesson from Peter. We must remind ourselves that God has a reason. We may not understand and we may get distressed and even angry about these events or the current path, but we have to remind ourselves that it is part of God’s plan. Possibly as we begin to accept his plan, we find solace in it.

The second theme from today’s reading relates to the paying of the temple tax. Although “simple” at one level, I initially struggled to take meaning from Jesus’ actions and message. The simple: When asked about who should pay the temple tax to the king, Jesus noted that the “foreigners” should pay with the subjects being exempt. Jesus did not see himself as being a subject of any earthly king and, thus, was neither foreigner nor subject. Despite this, Jesus believes he and Peter should pay the tax in order to support the temple and its functions, and to avoid controversy or scandal. I believe that Jesus is recommending that we follow the law as well as long as it does not conflict with God’s teachings. Jesus then has Peter drop a hook and take a coin from the first fish that comes up, and to then pay the tax for both of them. This miracle, often cited as the only miracle he performed that “benefited” him, was a subtle or not-so-subtle way to demonstrate that despite paying the tax that he did rule the earth and all of creation.

So what does this mean?

Jesus knew his mission and he did not let trivial matters such as paying the temple tax distract him or others from it. It is a reminder to all of us to stay focused on God and his teachings. Yes, we will be distracted by the trivial - even though at the time it may not seem so trivial; however, we must not let these distractions keep us from our mission to abide by the teachings of Jesus as he points our way to everlasting life.

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