08 Aug, Monday of Week 19
Deut 10:12ff. Because they were chosen as God’s very own people out of all nations, they must show mercy to foreigners, as they themselves received mercy.
Matt 17:22ff. Jesus again announces his death. Then he pays the temple tax, voluntarily, not as an obligation.
The Paradox of Election
The more we come to know the God of majesty, the more amazing seems his love and personal concern, his closeness to his creatures. Today’s texts centre on this paradox. Deuteronomy puts it marvellously, first speaking of God’s majesty, “The heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to Him, with the earth and everything on it.” How can such a God concern himself for Israel and “choose you, their descendants, in preference to all other peoples, as indeed he has now done”? Yet, paradox though it be, it is the living truth. God, the greatest, chooses the smallest, so that He is to be appreciated most of all for his gracious love. Yet Deuteronomy does not scorn the non-elect, but reaches out to embrace immigrants, requiring Israel to “befriend them, feeding and clothing them.” We sense a prophetic influence when it says that the Lord “has no favourites, accepts no bribes and does justice for the orphan and the widow.” Clearly, Deuteronomy is much more than a restatements of Israel’s law, for like the prophet Jeremiah and the apostle Paul, it insists more on circumcision of the heart than on physical circumcision. It continues to asks for a personal response to the law that was given amidst such splendour on Mount Sinai.
Jesus accepted the temple tradition and told Peter to pay the temple tax for both of them; but Jesus too gave hints that the Father’s intentions reached far beyond the temple. This gospel suggests that the transition from a single elect people to a beloved family of all nations would not be easily achieved. The Son of Man must be put to death, before it can be made a reality.
First Reading: Deuteronomy 10:12-22
So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only 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 of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.
Gospel: Matthew 17:22-27
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed.
When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”