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The good news for the day August 8

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time (413)

As Jesus was getting together with his students in Galilee, He told them, “The Human is going to be handed over to humans, who will kill him, but he will be raised on the third day.” His students were very upset. When they came to Capernaum, collectors of the Jewish temple tax approached Peter the spokesman to ask, “Doesn’t your professor pay the Jewish tax for the temple upkeep?” “O Yes!” he said. When he came inside the house, Jesus anticipated him to ask, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the people at the top prefer to take toll fees or collect taxes based on the census—from their own people [“sons”] or from aliens?” When Simon answered, “From aliens,” Jesus said to him, “Then their own people [Greek: “sons”] in fact are excused. But so that we won’t upset people, go over to the lake, 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 both for me and for you.” (August 8)

This temple tax derives from the Torah [Exodus]—a kind of tithe to support the temple and its priesthood. It is a church collection. Because Jews all over the ancient world felt responsibility and used the tax to maintain their sense of belonging with their own, they voluntarily sent millions of ‘dollars’ to Jerusalem. The tax collectors here are roughly ushers in church putting the basket in front of Jesus and his followers.

What does this episode say to you? It is much more than about support for your parish, or the obvious fact that Simon Peter lies, or that Jesus works a weird miracle. It is about your freedom as “children of God.” Translations do not convey that the word I write as “citizens,” in the original language is “children/sons.” Citizens were seen as “sons” of kings. Jesus is punning.

You, Child of Our Father, are free of such obligations and requirements of the “law”; you are not just a member of a club. As Jesus could pay or not pay—you are free. THAT is the point here. Child of God—you—have a special freedom. Don’t upset people; use your vast new freedom wisely.

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