Today's Gospel passage presents us with an interchange between Peter and Jesus about taxes. Taxes were as popular in the time of Jesus as they are today. Nothing has changed in that regard. However, this passage is not really about taxes at all. It is about sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others. Jesus chooses to pay the Temple tax even though he could argue that no one, especially not he, should be expected to pay a tax in order to enter his or her own house. He chooses to pay the tax so that the sensitivities of the people will not be offended.
We have to distinguish here between giving scandal and offending one's sensitivities. Not paying the Temple tax would not give rise to scandal. Scandal arises from a lapse of moral conduct. Jesus knows that the crowds are watching his behavior. If he chose not to pay the tax, a choice he could in all good conscience choose to make, he would certainly offend the more devout Jewish citizens and possibly turn them away from considering the Gospel he had come to preach.
Social sensitivities change with time. For instance, when my Province of the Sacred Heart was founded in 1879, the friars were prohibited from eating in public. They could not dine in the homes of their parishioners. They could not go out to dinner in a restaurant. The statutes of the Province included this prohibition because of a concern that people might be offended to see their pastors at meals. Obviously that no longer is a concern. However, there are still certain things that "just are not done." While they may seem of no consequence, all of us would be well advised to remember that causing offense is not to be taken lightly. It is important to guard our tongues, to act with decorum, and to be courteous so that others may not find a reason to discount our Gospel way of life.
One practical example comes to mind for CUSANS. If we truly do rejoice in our afflictions for the sake of the Body of Christ, as our motto proclaims, let us hope that others will not hear us complain about the cross which we have resolved to carry.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator