Monday in the Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey

Scripture Readings: Ez 1:2-5, 24-28c;  Mt 17:22-27

Today, Jesus is teaching us about “offense.” The Greek word used for Offense is skandalon, which means “stumbling block.” We may experience offense at two levels.

There is the level of human offense. Jesus tells Peter to pay the Temple tax for both of them even though they do not owe it. He says to do this “that we may not offend them.” This avoids two possible occasions of offense. When humans offend, it tends to be repeated and pernicious. Jesus teaches that offenses will happen to us, but we are not to become offenders. “Pass it on” is a behavioral law of nature that we must consciously renounce in living the Christian way of life.

We can contrast this experience of human offense with the story at the beginning of today’s gospel: the foretelling of the passion. “And they were overwhelmed with grief.” They were offended. The Divine offense is marked by being singular and for our good. But we don’t always recognize it.

So we see that interpersonal offense is a stumbling block for love of neighbor. Human offense causes us to be focused outside of self, on the neighbor.

A Divine offense has a more enduring effect. What that effect will be depends on how the offense is met. We are to meet it with an awareness-of-God stirring within us. In a contemplative community the gaze is focused within on the stirrings of God in the heart.

Jesus is concerned not to do human offense, but blatantly commits a divine offense with His passion prediction. It is for the good of His disciples who must learn that they will be saved by what shouldn’t happen. To learn that, to let it affect them, they must have faith. That is the very important lesson which Jesus has been trying to teach them all along. He has been trying to teach them about faith.

Faith is the opposite of offense, but the only way to faith is through the possibility of offense. We must know that we are saved by what shouldn’t happen.