Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Ezekiel 1:2-5.24-28c; Matthew 17:22-27)
Justice is the virtue by which we give to others their due. It is 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 those who work 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 lives of the saints like Katherine Ann Drexel who spent her fortune and her life on the construction of missions for poor minorities in the United States.
The gospel today presents a negative instance of natural justice and a positive instance of supernatural love. Jesus instructs Peter that justice does not require him to pay the temple tax because he is the son of God for whom the temple was constructed. However, because supernatural love moves him not to give scandal to 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.