I suppose we’ve all heard those jokes about Our Lord and Saint Peter playing golf. In one of them, the Lord hits a bad shot, and the ball is heading for a sand trip, when suddenly an eagle swoops down, catches the ball in its beak, drops it on the green, where it rolls several yards UPHILL and falls into the cup. Saint Peter is very annoyed and says to Our Lord, “Look, are you just going to fool around, or are you going to play golf?”
In today’s gospel reading from Saint Matthew, the temple tax collectors come to gather the annual half-shekel temple tax from Our Lord and Saint Peter. So Jesus tells Peter to go down to the lakeshore at Capharnaum, let down a line with a hook, and then look in the mouth of the first fish he catches. There, he’ll find a shekel with which Peter can pay the tax for both of them.
At first hearing, it sounds like a joke or a fish-story. But when you think about it, there is more to it than just a joke. Saint Matthew would never have included it in his gospel if it were merely a bit of witticism. Stop and think for a moment: Our Lord tells Saint Peter to perform an action which involved the “profession” we might say of each of them. Peter is a fisherman, so Jesus tells him to go throw a hook and line into the water. Our Lord is God, so he can easily arrange for there to be a fish there which has a shekel in its mouth and then bites on Peter’s hook.
So, to accomplish his purpose, namely, the paying of the temple tax, Jesus says to Peter, in effect: you do what you do best, and I will do what only I can do, and together we’ll get the tax paid. So one produces a little miracle and the other fishes.
Think of that the next time you have something to do that seems beyond your means. You become discouraged and say to yourself, “I can’t do that!” That may be true; maybe you can’t. But you and Jesus can. Remember that always. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.