There is an incident mentioned in the life of King Richard I, who ruled England in the late 12th century.
>> He was known as Richard the Lion Heart for being a great military warrior and leader.
However, once, while returning after the Third Crusade, he was captured by Leopold V, the Duke of Austria.
>> He was handed over to Henry VI, the Roman Emperor.
This king demanded a very huge amount for his release
The price of ransom was 1,50, 000 Marks…
… equivalent of nearly three tons of silver.
This was an enormous demand.
But the people of England spared no efforts in getting their king released.
>> Extra taxation was imposed
>> Huge contributions were obtained
Finally, after many months, the money was raised…
… and the king returned to England.
A huge “ransom” was paid to get the King released
( This is probably also the origin of the English phrase – “A king’s ransom” – which means “a large amount of money”)
Centuries ago, however, on the face of the earth, this act was reversed…
… One Man – The King of Kings – paid a “ransom” to save His people
>> He spared no efforts in getting His people released…
… by suffering on the Cross
… shedding His Blood
… giving up His life
… and rising from the dead
Have we fallen in love with this King Who gave Himself up for us?
>> Are we willing to live our life in obedience to His commands Who ransomed His life for us?
The Gospel of the Day presents an interesting, yet a ‘not-too-familiar’ passage of Jesus and His disciples being asked to pay the Temple tax.
“When Jesus and His disciples came to Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the Temple tax?” (Mt 17: 24)
What was this Temple tax?
The Temple tax was …
… a symbolic gesture in gratitude for what the people of Israel owed to God, for their redemption from slavery in the land of Egypt.
It was a Jewish tax with its origins seen in Ex 30: 12-16:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel… The half-shekel shall be an offering to the LORD.”
This offering was to be an “atonement money”, which would be used for the service of the meeting tent (Ex 12: 16)
In later centuries, this half-shekel was adopted as the amount of the Temple Tax – the one that all Jews were supposed to pay once a year for the upkeep and maintenance of the Jerusalem Temple.
The Temple Tax was thus an “atonement” money
>> It was a “ransom” money!
It is fascinating to note that the incident of this “ransom/atonement” money is mentioned immediately after Jesus spoke of His Passion and Death.
Jesus told His disciples in Mt 17:22-23:
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day”
The incident of the Temple tax, which is the atonement/ransom money, is mentioned…
… immediately after Jesus speaks of His Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Is there any connection between these two incidents?
The Temple tax was in gratitude for the redemption of Israel from slavery
… Jesus would now free all people from the slavery of sin by His Death and Resurrection
The Temple Tax was paid as “ransom” money…
… The Blood of Jesus would now be the “ransom” that will be paid for redemption of humanity.
Jesus did not resist His disciples from paying the Temple Tax…
… as we would see in the incident of the miraculous catch of the fish with a coin in the mouth (Mt 17: 27)
But the perfect payment of the “tax”…
… would be done by Jesus Himself – by His Sufferings, Death and Resurrection!
Jesus would not just pay the tax…
… He would also give Himself in complete obedience to the Father
Thus, He would becoming the “tax” – the ransom and the atonement money!
>> 1 Tim 2:6 says, “Jesus gave Himself as a ‘ransom’ for all”
>> Mk 10 45 says “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ‘ransom’ for many”
It is interesting to also note that this incident of the Temple Tax brings reminds us of the former occupation (trade) of two of the disciples of Jesus:
1. Matthew… who was a tax collector (Mt 9:9)
(Probably that explains why this incident is mentioned only in the Gospel of St Matthew)
2. Peter… who was a fisherman (Mt 4:18)
(That’s why Jesus asks Peter to “go to the sea, take the first fish that comes up, and open the mouth to find a coin…”)
Matthew and Peter could represent any of us…
>> Maybe we are collecting a lot of things in life…
… but still not finding peace in life!
>> Maybe we are fishing in the waters of life for contentment and satisfaction…
.. but fail to have a catch!
>> Maybe we are occupied with material dimensions at our “own tables”…
… or find ourselves at the receiving end of not being accepted and being looked down by others
>> Maybe we are putting in a lot of effort to fish for success, yet finding none…
… or find ourselves drowning in a sea of sin, hopelessness or despair
Whoever we are..
>> The Lord extends His loving invitation…
… to leave our “tables of collection” and follow Him!
… to cast away our “nets of fish” and follow Him!
He has become the “Ransom”…
… in Whom we can find the ‘collection’ of all joys and contentment of life!
… in Whom we can witness the ‘great catch’ of salvation and redemption!
By this great act, He gave the “Ransom”…
… for our freedom from captivity!
>> By His humbling sacrifice, He paid the “Atonement money”…
… for our salvation for eternal life!
Yes, let us fall in love with the Man Who gave Himself up for us!
>> Let us be willing to live our life in obedience to His commands Who ransomed His life for us!
Let us seek the intercession of St Dominic de Guzman, whose feast we celebrate today.
Let us give heed to his words:
” Arm yourself with prayer instead of a sword…
… be clothed with humility instead of fine raiment”
” I am not capable of doing big things, but I want to do everything…
… even the smallest things, for the greater glory of God
God Bless! Live Jesus!