In today’s gospel we hear a short story about Jesus paying the temple tax. Technically, because Jesus and his disciples were foreigners, they were exempt from paying the temple tax. However, it appears that Jesus was mindful that to refrain from paying the tax would be offensive to some. Speaking to Peter, Jesus says, “so that we do not give offense to them” give them the coin you find and pay the tax. Perhaps Jesus believed people would be more open to his message if he paid the tax. Maybe he thought listeners would trust him as a teacher if he paid the tax. Possibly he hoped followers would give him the benefit of the doubt if he paid the tax. Whatever the motive, Jesus felt it was important not to offend the community.
One might say Pope Francis is choosing to live so as not to offend. Rather than live in luxury, he resides in a modest hotel. Rather than drive around in a Mercedes, Papa Francesco chooses a humble Ford Focus. Rather than a cross made from gold, Francis wears one made of iron. Possibly he is hoping that these simple acts will draw people to Jesus’ good news. Whatever the motive, Pope Francis is choosing humility rather than offense and the worldwide community is watching with renewed interest and respect.
Our actions impact people in our midst. Is there an area of our lives that some, who do not know us well, might find offensive? What concrete actions can we take so “that we do not give offense” and, in turn, more fully reflect the love of Jesus that dwells in our hearts?
—Sharron Deax Hanisch earned an MA in theology from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology). She is the mother of four children and a teacher at the School of Lectio Divina, St. Joseph Monastery, Tulsa, OK