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Payment of the temple tax

Gospel Reading: Mt 17:22-27

As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were overwhelmed with grief.

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, 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 for me and for you.”

REFLECTION That we may not offend them
Jesus expresses his willingness to pay the temple tax, though he may be tax exempt, because the collectors are aware that some rabbis ask for exemption. Jesus is careful not to offend the collectors of the temple tax coming from Jerusalem. Not only Jesus but also Peter must pay the temple tax.

The Jewish people, in fact, pay two kinds of taxes: the toll tax and the temple tax. The toll tax is for merchandise moved from one place to another. This is paid to the Romans, the foreigners. The temple tax is for the temple in Jerusalem and for the use of its priests.

Jesus does not want to disappoint his visitors, though they will be the ones to kill him in the future. It is not yet time to engage with the priests in Jerusalem through their collectors. Jesus is still in Galilee. He knows when and where the action should be. He must reserve the arguments with the priests when he gets to Jerusalem.

Jesus teaches his disciples to hold their fire if it is still premature to engage. There is time and proper venue for everything. There should be no hurrying up, so that there will be no fouling up.

Do you know how not to be offensive?

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