A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Avoiding scandal and unnecessary things

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 17:22-27), our Lord is asked about the payment of the Temple tax. He walks Peter through an analysis of the situation, reaching the determination that sons or subjects of the kingdom of God do not need to pay the tax for God’s temple.

However, even though payment of the tax is not required, our Lord accedes to its payment so that people may not be offended (or scandalized, as the original Greek indicates).

This is an important example for all of us, especially for those of us who may rightly feel knowledgeable and even sophisticated about the moral teachings of Christ.

Our conduct affects more than the state of our soul: it can have a very influential effect on other people.

Indeed, sometimes we can do the right thing but create a wrong impression.

This is not to say that the perception of others determines the morality of an action. Right is right and wrong is wrong. One cannot rightly commit an intrinsically evil act just because other people may see it as something necessary.

On the other hand, if an act is morally-speaking licit but unnecessary, it may be worthwhile to do it anyway in order not to create an obstacle to another person’s coming to the faith. That is what our Lord does in this case.

These kinds of judgments had to be done many times in the early Church, such as when Peter and Paul would observe particular Jewish rubrics or Imperial edicts so as not to scandalize people who might come to the faith.

This can only go so far, of course, because sometimes the morally licit action may itself give people the wrong idea about a key truth.

It can be a tricky prudential judgment but it is an important one to make: what is the impact of what we say, what we do, and what we decline to do? What does it say about the truth of Christ? How may it help or hurt others in their coming to Christ?