Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 17:22-27

“Give that to them for me and for you.”

When Jesus walked this earth—Jesus, the one whose life and ministry fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament—there were three ways in which He spoke and acted as a prophet.  Through these three, He teaches us not only how to be His disciples, but also how to teach in His name.

The sort of grand spectacle that we hear in Ezekiel today was fulfilled by Jesus through the miracles He worked, and also by His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, when He shone in glory before three of His disciples.  But as impressive as that was, spectacle was not the norm for Jesus.

Though many like to pretend otherwise, Jesus also preached “fire and brimstone” when the occasion called for it.  This second way of being a prophet, of course, is one of the reasons that Jesus was led to the Cross.

The third way in which Jesus acted as a prophet is a kind which is very rare in the Old Testament.  But it is uncommonly common in the life of Jesus.  In the life of one of His saints—St. Thérèse the Little Flower—it was called the “Little Way”.  It is a way of simplicity and humbleness that goes overlooked by those looking for spectacles.  It is a way that is ignored by those who are looking out for themselves, instead of others:  by those who justify their actions by claiming that they’re just doing what everyone else is doing, walking down the broad path, instead of trying to walk the narrow way that following Jesus demands.

The simplicity and humbleness of Jesus in today’s Gospel is a very good meditation for those setting out again to begin a new school year.  Jesus is not obligated to pay the tax that is demanded of Peter, but Jesus explains—“that we may not offend them”—that He will pay the tax anyhow.

The miracle by which Jesus accomplishes this almost goes unnoticed, because it’s not the point.  Jesus’ point is to teach by humility, to teach by doing that which is not necessary, but which can lead others to see the Little Way.  This is the way that, after a long journey through a life of service in this world, leads to the vision of eternal life with God and His saints.