Reading: From the Gospel according to St. Matthew 17: 22-27
Dear and Respected Brethren,
In the beginning of today's reading, our Lord is revealing a secret to His beloved Apostles that he will be betrayed by men and will be killed. He also said that He would rise from the dead on the third day. It is to be feared that the Apostles could not give due importance to the words about our Lord's resurrection. Either they did not give due weight to those words or they could not understand what those meant, as still then no body in their knowledge had resurrected. It will be interesting to place us in the place of the Apostles and to imagine what would have been our immediate response on hearing our Lord's revelation. Our Lord has used 'Son of Man' instead of 'Son of God'. From this only our Eastern Church Fathers might have accepted the definition of the incarnation as "Son of God became son of man, to convert sons of men as sons of God". St. Matthew has recorded that the Apostles were exceedingly sorry on hearing our Lord. (Verse-23) In St. Matthew 20: 17-18, we read about our Lord's another revelation about the crucifixion and death, before going to Jerusalem.
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the tribute money approached St. Peter and asked "Does not your Master pay tribute?" St. Peter answered immediately "yes", thought he did not make sure that there was enough funds in the cash bag of the Master, which was handled by Jude Iscariot. Different incidents are presented by St. Mark as that happened after the arrival of our Lord and the Apostles in Capernaum, as detailed in St. Mark 9:33 onwards. Our Lord did not question St. Peter for answering the Tribute collectors. But he asked a question to St. Peter. "Simon, what you think, of whom the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children or of strangers?" St. Peter's answer was also spontaneous. "Of strangers". Then our Lord is telling that in that case, the children are free from paying the tribute. (Tribute is to be understood as a 'census' or a 'poll tax')
Our Lord instructed St. Peter to go to the sea, and to catch a fish and to take the piece of money in the mouth of the fish and to pay to the tax collectors. In the Sea of Galilee there are twenty two types of fishes now. One among them is known as St. Peter's fish. It is traditionally believed that the so called St. Peter's fish belongs to the tribe of the fish that was caught by St. Peter on the order of our Lord.
We have to realize the following points from this incident.
a) In our daily lives, there might be occasions of tensions especially
in our deal with others. We must make some or other adjustments for the sake of avoiding offence. We should not offend others at any cost.
b) When darkness might come into our lives, we should not try to remain in the darkness saying that it is our fate. We must come out of it with true faith and conviction that nothing is impossible to God Almighty. (In normal case, no fish can hold a metal piece or so in its mouth, as it might block its respiratory system. But the fish caught by St. Peter could hold a piece of coin in its mouth. This itself is a solid proof that nothing is impossible to God Almighty)
c) When there is problem or shortage in our personal lives, we should
not curse the fate, or run after the fortune tellers. We all must pray
earnestly to our Lord God who could sort out our all problems so quickly and so easily. Let us have true faith. Let us try to uphold the teachings and practices of our fore-fathers and let us follow their staunch faith. Let us practice systematic sacramental life and obey the guidance and teachings of the Holy Church. Let us not be tempted by the emotional prayers of certain 'groups'. We must feel proud of being members of the Holy Church which upholds the true Orthodox faith.
St. Peter obeyed His Lord immediately. He did not say "how Lord, how I will get a piece of coin from the mouth of the fish. Do you think I do not know the Sea and the fishes there? Etc". If we were in his place, we would have thought like this even if we might not say directly to our Master. Let us praise God for the obedience of the Apostles, especially St. Peter in this regard, as well as our Church Fathers of yester years. Let us follow their footsteps in obedience, conviction of faith and confession of the faith.
May God bless us all.
Jose Kurian Puliyeril