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Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Deut. 10:12-22 & Mt. 17:22-27

Through Moses God is making an appeal to His people. He wants them to be like Himself. As He was dedicated to them, so they were to be dedicated to Him. As He had freed them when they were aliens in Egypt, so they are to befriend the alien in their own land. He had treated everyone with fairness and justice, that is how they are to treat others.

This temple tax was levied on all Jewish men aged 20 and over, and amounted to about two days' wages. The money raised was for the upkeep of the building, although it is interesting to note that when Matthew wrote his Gospel, the Temple had already been destroyed: the Jews were obliged by the Romans to pay the tax, then, for the temple of Jupiter in Rome. How the Jews must have resented this, just as the early Christians would have resented supporting the Jewish temple!

What is our attitude to taxation? Don't we all sometimes resent having to pay income tax, council tax, road tax, and vat? But these are necessary if we want the benefits that we receive through them. How else could we enjoy medical care, clean streets, good roads, education for our children, pensions for elderly people, and help for the poorest in our society and provide funding for overseas aid?

When it comes to supporting the Church do we feel the same way? If people complain I don't think they realise the cost of heating and lighting the church or the repairs and maintenance of the buildings, not to mention feeding the parish priest! I imagine they would be very upset if the church were not clean and warm, or worse still, that there was no church.

Taxes are necessary and, if the money raised is wisely used, then we should not resent paying them. We belong to a community and we should support it according to our means. The same is true of the Church, the Catholic family to which we all belong and for which each member of the family makes a contribution. If we look at tax paying in this way we will not feel so resentful. After all, if the Lord was willing to pay up, why should we not?

A lesson for us from today's readings is that we are to offer preferential treatment to the poor, being generous, for the Lord has blessed us. We are called to share our blessings with others that we may become more like Him. Each of us is called to serve one another. When we serve others, we are serving God as well.

Heavenly Father, You have been so generous to us. Help us to be generous like You and learn to be a cheerful giver.

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