Monday of Week 19 – Ez 1:2-5,24-28; Psalm 148:1-2,11-14; Matthew 17:22-27
Ezekiel is a difficult prophet to understand, but today’s reading is clearly expressing the splendour and glory of God. In fact, he repeatedly says ‘like the glory of God’ to indicate that the glory of God is great and splendid, but really indescribable. In the Gospel reading Jesus also describes His glory: He is to be betrayed, then killed, and will rise up on the third day. The disciples still can’t grasp the concept that this is Jesus’ mission and He is to be glorified through it by the Father. It’s the second time Jesus is telling them, but it’s a struggle for them get it. They hear the bad news only: betrayal and death, and are overwhelmed by it such that they cannot yet see the wonder of how God will bring an infinitely greater good; Salvation and life eternal; out of evil, betrayal and death. That surely is one of the great mysteries of God: though there is evil in the world, He is able to bring goodness out of what seems darkness.
The challenge of Christian faith is to see the glory of Christ in the cross. The disciples have only just started to climb this mountain that will peak with them understanding the Paschal Mystery after the Resurrection.
Having challenged the disciples with this mountain, Jesus then turns His attention to matters of molehill dimensions. Should He pay the Temple Tax: The money payable by every adult male Jew for the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus makes the point that since the Father is the king whose temple this is, He and His disciples should not have to pay it. The Pharisees want the money, they’re expecting the money, Jesus has the right to refuse paying. And here Jesus gives us a good lesson about time and place. There is time and a place to sort out disputes, disagreements. And this isn’t it. So Jesus uses a pinch of humour to diffuse the situation, and in a light-hearted miracle gets Peter to find the money for the tax in a fish.
What a lovely example of humility from Jesus. As God’s Son He does not have to pay the tax but pays it in order to avoid offending the collectors unnecessarily. There’s nothing wrong in paying the tax, no serious moral issue involved, He just doesn’t have to. He chooses not to create friction when it is not necessary. How much better, smoother marriages, friendships, international-relationships would be if we were able more often to humbly die to self for the sake of unity rather than fighting over something that in the end doesn’t really matter that much. Even better, if you can introduce a little humour too.