Monday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time Year 2
(Ez 1:2-5; 24-28; Mt 17:22-27)
First things first. A story was told about Charlie Brown who comes up to bat. He is determined, as always, to do well. Someday, just maybe, his team will win a game. And someday, just maybe, he might be a baseball hero. Strike three! Charlie Brown has struck out once again. He returns to the sidelines and slumps down on the bench. “Rats! I’ll never be a big-league player. I just don’t have it! All my life I’ve dreamed of playing in the big leagues, but I know I’ll never make it! Lucy turns to console him in her inimitable way. “Charlie Brown, you’re thinking too much far ahead. What you need to do is to set more immediate goals for yourself.” Charlie looks up, appearing to brighten at the prospect of something positive that might come from all the negatives he has been experiencing: “Immediate goals?” “Yes,” Lucy advises, “start with the next inning. When you go out to pitch, see if you can walk out to the mound without falling down!” (taken from God’s Little Devotional Book for Leaders, p. 60-61) Man lives with priorities in the world because man notices that the world is made up of degrees of beings and realities, levels of existence and layers of socities and communities. Jesus presents and offers us the Kingdom of God as our permanent and uncompromising priority. Though man is a citizen of a country, he is also reminded that he is a citizen of the Kingdom of God. In the Gospel today, Jesus was confronted by the collectors of the temple tax who asked if Jesus pays the Temple tax. This incident and episode is important to bring Jesus’ point and illustrate the values of the Kingdom. Let us reflect on the readings today.
1. Charity- Charity is the highest form of human links and relationships. To pay the Temple tax was required by Jewish liturgical laws and it was indeed a form of justice to God and to the Temple if one observes this obligation faithfully yet Jesus would like to emphasize that there something greater than just the responsibility of paying taxes to the Temple- and that is charity. Charity is a virtue greater than the rest. The minimum requirement of charity is justice. No charity could ever be established if justice is not promoted and the human person is no longer advanced. Justice is giving what is due to man and to God. Without justice no reaches the virtue of charity. The commitment to charity presupposes justice because it is at the basis of social interaction and social order. When charity becomes the vocation of the human person and of the Christian community, justice towards the Temple is fulfilled and besides a Christian is expected to go beyond than just paying taxes to the Temple. Charity is the essence of God. St. Augustine says “If you see charity, you see the Trinity.”
2. Formation of the heart- Charity and the vocation of a person demands an encounter with the Lord. Those who seek to develop charity tries to open themselves to the formation of the human person. His conscience is shaped by charity. Conscience and charity are inseparable from each other because conscience guides and sets the direction of charity while charity is the action what conscience dictates. Christians can only be charitable if there is a true encounter with the Lord. Benedict XVI affirms this saying that “they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbour will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6).” Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. Charity forms the human heart because charity shapes the future of man and his community.
3. Freedom of the person- Freedom is the gift and the vocation of the human person. Man appreciates the truth when he is free. He serves and he is humble because freedom prompts him to be open to the Infinite and become more attractive to others. Benedict XVI said that those who practise charity in the Church’s name will never seek to impose the Church’s faith upon others. They realize that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love. When God calls, the person freely responds. The Prophet Ezekiel, in the first reading relates the story of his call. He realized that the hand of the Lord was upon Him yet God leaves him free to answer His call or reject it. It is freedom that makes the individual formed and more relational with the rest of humanity for the common good. Freedom makes the responsibility of the person salvific and effective. Responsibility will only find its fullest meaning in charity. Benedict XVI continues to say that the “Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level.” (DCE 20)