13 August 2007 Monday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 17, 22-27 The Way to Pay our Debts
The Gospel tells us that upon the return of the disciples to Capernaum, they were asked whether they also pay the temple tax. The disciples said yes; and Jesus affirmed that they have to pay their debts so that they will not offend the tax collectors. And Jesus instructed Peter to “go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and [Peter] will find a coin worth twice the temple tax.” The coins will then pay their debts.
It would have been nice if we take the passage literally: In our financial difficulties, we can wait for God to give us a miracle. We have tried waiting for God to shower us with the money we need to pay our unpaid sum. But we know that money will not come down from heaven.
We can therefore read the passage with a little humor. How then should we pay our debts? Jesus tells Peter, who is a fisherman that his financial source will be the fish that he catches.
Thus, a lawyer will find his source of income from his law books. A teacher will find it in the chalk and blackboard. A musician with his or her instrument. A painter with his medium. A tricycle driver with his tricycle.
Hesiod (Ἡσίοδος Hesiodos), a Greek poet and writer, once said, that the immortal gods have put sweat in the pursuit of excellence; and the way to it is steep and long. This is how we pay what is due: Before making money out of his ‘fish’, the lawyer has to study his law books; the musician has to master his instrument. The road is long and steep, but not impossible.