Homilette for Monday, August 11, 2008

Memorial of St. Clare, virgin

(Matthew 17:22-27)

Justice is the virtue by which we give to each person his or her due. It is absolutely essential for harmonious social life. Love is the virtue by which we join ourselves spiritually if not physically to others. Family life would be inconceivable without it. Both virtues have natural and supernatural dimensions. Natural justice, for example, assures that we compensate properly the person who works for us. Supernatural justice moves us to secure the rights of all people, whether or not we owe them anything personally. Pursuing supernatural justice, which is bestowed only through God’s grace, we merit everlasting life.

Parents, of course, love their children. Because they naturally identify their children’s welfare with their own, they make it a priority. Supernatural love moves people to identify with and to seek the good for God and others, beyond family and friends. We see supernatural love operative in the life of St. Clare of Assisi who exhausted herself in prayer and charitable works.

The gospel today presents a negative instance of natural justice and a positive instance of supernatural love. Jesus instructs Peter that justice does require him to pay the temple tax because he is the son of God for whom the temple is constructed. However, because supernatural love moves him not to give scandal to the tax collectors, Jesus provides for the paying of the tax. In paying the tax voluntarily, Jesus demonstrates in a rather banal way that he is indeed of divine origin.