Monday of Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel, we see there is a discussion on the paying of half shekel (temple tax). To start with let us see what the collection of half shekel means. The half shekel was the amount paid by the Jews of the maintenance of the temple.
To the authorities, Jesus was a law-breaker, who questioned most of the practices. Jesus, on the other hand realized his mission to renew everything and was not a law-breaker, but, rather was a reformer. He looks beyond the structural temple. Temple or Church is much more than a building… the people of God forms the temple and so the maintenance of the temple meant maintaining the faithful… the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger… who had no one to rely on. Instead of spending on the structure, we must be more focused on the members.
Compassion and looking to the needs of the needy is way more praiseworthy in the eyes of God than building up structures and its maintenance. The first reading calls our attention to the same. God’s attention (it wouldn’t be wrong to say God’s partiality) for the needy – poor, widow and orphan.
So, Jesus in fact is not giving a new law, but, reminding them what the LAW really teaches. However, Jesus is not condemning the practice (of collecting half shekel). Let them contribute… we see Jesus lauding the contribution of the poor widow (Mk. 12. 41 – 44) and Jesus is instructing Peter to pay the same for himself and Jesus through the miraculous catch of fish. What Jesus is interested in is making the proper use of it, making it reach the needy. The coin from fish’s belly is trying to say that when you want to make good use of money, he will open up His Divine Providence. What we do in God’s name should benefit God’s people. God is not residing in the man-made temples. He resides in his own temple, the temple made of his own image and likeness and let us help build his temple by supporting the needy.