13Aug 13 August. Monday, Week 19

1st Reading: Ezekiel (1:1-5, 24-28)

The four cherubim that carry God’s glory on the wing

In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the Lord came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was on him there.

As I looked, a stormy wind came out of the north: a great cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing out continually, and in the middle of the fire, something like gleaming amber. In the middle of it was something like four living creatures. This was their appearance: they were of human form. When they moved, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of mighty waters, like the thunder of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army; when they stopped, they let down their wings. And there came a voice from above the dome over their heads; when they stopped, they let down their wings. And above the dome over their heads there was something like a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was something that seemed like a human form.

Upward from what appeared like the loins I saw something like gleaming amber, something that looked like fire enclosed all around; and downward from what looked like the loins I saw something that looked like fire, and there was a splendour all around. Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendour all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking.

Responsorial (Ps 148)

R./: Heaven and earth are filled with your glory

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights;
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts. (R./)

Let the kings of the earth and all peoples,
the princes and all the judges of the earth,
Young men too, and maidens,
old men and boys, praise the name of the Lord (R./)

Let them praise the name of the Lord
for his name alone is exalted;
The splendour of his name
reaches beyond earth and heaven.

He has lifted up the strength of his people.
He is the praise of all his faithful ones,
of the children of Israel,
the people to whom he comes close. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (17:22-27)

Jesus pays the temple tax freely, not as an obligation

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.”


The Paradox of Election

Ezekiel’s first prophetic vision offers a memorable sense of the awesome splendour of God. He sees the Almighty like some majestic potentate travelling across the desert to accompany his people into exile. Later, Ezekiel turns out to be a man of practical detail, charting Israel’s future after the Babylonian exile. In his blueprint, God’s glory “dwells” not just in the Jerusalem temple but wherever his people are forced to wander.

In the Gospel, Jesus accepts the tradition of each adult Jew paying a yearly tax to support the Jerusalem temple. But while he tells Peter to pay the temple tax for both of them, he also indicated that our heavenly Father’s intentions reached far beyond the temple. This gospel suggests that the transition from a singular chosen 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.

Why pay a temple tax?

Jesus and the disciples keep on their journey even though he has predicted his own death and resurrection. When they come to Capernaum, the lakeside home of Simon Peter, a strange little incident occurs. The half-shekel tax is the tax that every Jew paid annually towards the upkeep of the temple. Jesus makes the startling claim that he and his followers are exempt from this tax, because he himself is now the new temple.

Still, he tells Peter to pay the tax so as not to offend the religious leaders. In other words, while he claims exemption in this regard Jesus recommends putting this freedom to one side so as not to give unnecessary offense. This reminds us that although we may be morally free in regard to certain matters, it can be right for the sake of charity and respect not to use our freedom when the good of others is at stake.

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    Death and taxes are the only reliable things in this world, so we are told, and today both feature in the gospel. Jesus seeks to prepare his disciples for the death that is going to come to him, and then we have a story about the Temple tax and the duty of all to contribute to that society. No one likes to think about death until it happens and this is as it should be. We are made for life and God is a God of the living. No one is too keen on paying tax either but we also know that contributing to the common good is right and fitting.

    In the face of both these realities, death and taxes, Jesus shows himself to be a free man and a true son of God. He will meet both challenges with calm and dignity, paying the tax to help his society and paying with his death to overcome the evil of this world.

    In the Lord’s grace we too can face death and taxes calmly and with the freedom of the children of God.
    We witness to the common good in this world as opposed to selfish self seeking, and we pray for the grace to leave this world, when the time comes, and to yield ourselves into the arms of the loving Lord.