Monday, 19th Week in Ordinary Time
“That we may not offend them…”
In today’s gospel reading, we hear Jesus telling Peter that, although they are logically exempt from doing so, the two of them have to pay the Temple tax for fear of ‘offending’ the collectors of that tax. The verb used in Greek for ‘offending’ is the verb scandalize. To scandalize is to lead someone into sin, either intentionally or unintentionally. This particular case is what theologians call “the scandal of the weak and the ignorant.” This can happen even when the particular actions involved are in themselves good or at least indifferent.
In other words, although Jesus is exempt from paying the temple tax, he still obliges himself in order not to scandalize other people. Jesus does not ask for privilege; he does not look for exemptions; he does not find ways to avoid obligations. And he does not mind sharing in people’s burdens. Jesus’ attitude is an antidote to the wrong sense of entitlement.
Quite often we demand our rights but forget our responsibilities. We often look for exemptions – particularly in the application of the law. We find ways to avoid our obligations – especially to our government. We want to be excused from following regulations – even those of the Church. We take short cut, as much as possible. We clamor for what we believe is due to us; we strongly demand our rights but easily forget our responsibilities. If only we are as demanding when it comes to our duties and obligations, perhaps things will be a bit better in our country and in our world.
As Christians we must get rid of any wrong sense of entitlement. Jesus is giving us a good example on this. It is all right to demand our rights; but even our rights are gifts. Let us not forget that with every right is a corresponding responsibility. Let us perform it, even if only not to offend people.
Fr. Nil Guillemette has a striking commentary on this: “Some people simply do not have our degree of religious education.” “What we can do without sinning, they often consider a sin.” “If we disregard their opinion as childish or misinformed, we run the risk of their imitating us with a bad conscience.” “And so, for the sake of fraternal love, we must sometimes abstain from what we know in conscience we are allowed to do.” “It is all a matter of love.”