“They took offense at Him.”
The incarcerated John the Baptist once sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him this question, “Are you He who is to come or should we look for another?” Jesus used this opportunity to warn them about taking offense at Him for any reason, “Blessed are those who do not take offense at me.”(Mt 11:3,6)
It is important not to take offense at God or to nurture offense against others because taking offense kills our joy by closing our hearts to love. We cannot receive and give love when we let upset and angry feelings to remain and grow within us for any reason.
The Nazarites had great admiration for Jesus’ words and actions, “What kind of wisdom has been given to Him? What mighty deeds are wrought by His hands?” But this admiration quickly changed to offense for the smallest reason – Jesus’ humble roots and their familiarity with Him, “Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us? And they took offense at Him.”
By taking offense at Jesus for that flimsy reason, they could not receive or experience the powerful things that Jesus was offering to them, like faith and healing, “So He was not able to perform any mighty deeds there…He was amazed at their lack of faith.”(Mk 6:2-3,5-6)
On His part, Jesus does not take offense at their rejecting Him but continues to do His good works of healing those who remain open to Him. He is not overcome by their taking offense at Him. He continues to be open to the Father’s plan for Him to give of Himself until His death on the cross of Calvary. We see that taking offense only harms us, not God.
We surely offend God by our sins but God still offers us mercy. He continues to speak words of hope and forgiveness to His rebellious people whom He described as “hard of face and obstinate of heart.”(Ez 2:4) He does not keep malice with them because they ignore His words. Why then should we nurture offense in our hearts because others do not meet our expectations?
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t we easily get offended at God, ourselves and others today? We take offense at God because of the death of our loved ones, tragedies in our lives or our failed plans. We are offended because God does not usually respond to our needs the way we expect Him to do. We take offense at Him because of our lingering struggles with sin, our painful relationships, etc. We take offense at other people like our political leaders, clergy, and even our close relationships because of their actions or inactions. We also take offense at ourselves for our failures, weaknesses in life, or persistent difficulties.
We must remind ourselves that offense only wounds us; not God or others. Taking offense and letting it simmer within us is a quick and sweet poison to the soul that eventually snuffs out the joy of our spiritual life. Once offense closes our hearts to experience and offer love to God and others for God’s sake, we cannot receive the grace we need to pray fervently, sincerely repent of our sins, serve others selflessly, courageously practice virtues and overcome sin. We also forfeit all true joy that comes from being unconditionally loved by God. We thus lose all inner joy in God and in spiritual things.
This is how taking offense at God and fostering our offense against others prepare us for full rebellion against God, His Commandments, and His will for us. All the bold and obstinate rebellion against God and His commandments that we see in our times inside and outside the Church, especially those sins against human life, chastity, and marriage, most likely began with consciously or unconsciously taking offense against God for one reason or another.
St. Paul shows us that the antidote to taking offense is to keep our hearts and mind open to God and to others no matter the offense that we experience. He had received “an abundance of revelation” along with “a thorn in his flesh.” This “thorn” could have been some personal struggle or some opposition or difficulty in his life. He prayed fervently and persistently for God to take it away. God did not take his “thorn” away but offered Him sufficient grace for fidelity to Him despite the struggle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
St. Paul was not offended by God’s refusal to deliver him from these torments. He trustingly opened his heart to receive God’s powerful grace. This grace would transform, heal, and empower him to face, accept, and endure many things that would easily cause any one of us to take offense, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ.”(2Cor 12:7,9, 10) This is the power of divine grace for fidelity to Christ even in the face of things that offend us if only we refuse to harden our hearts by taking offense at God.
In addition to this openness to God’s love in the face of offensive things and persons, we must never allow offense in our relationships with others to linger. Jesus warned us about this too: “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gifts there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”(Mt 5:23-24) If a fruitful worship of God demands that our hearts be free of any form of offense against us, we can imagine the ludicrous scenario of a pro-abortion and pro-infanticide Catholic receiving Holy Communion. It is the most empty and meaningless worship because the unborn that are slaughtered in their mothers’ womb have so many things against such “Catholics” who have denied them their basic right to life and the clergy who condone such scandalous and sacrilegious reception of the Eucharist. One cannot think of an emptier worship than this.
If we find ourselves taking offense at God because of His mysterious ways of acting or we easily give in to upset feelings that kill our joy and keep us trapped, we must remember that God, who is always merciful, offers us the same sufficient grace to be faithful to Him in the face of all those upsetting events. We cannot transcend these upset feelings without the help of His grace.
God has also given us His Mother Mary, the ever-faithful Mother of divine grace, to help us to open our hearts to receive and respond to His love and graces in those moments. Mama Mary did not take offense at others in all the upsetting moments of her life like when she had to give birth to Jesus in a manger or look for Him for three days. She never took offense at God even when she could not understand the actions of Jesus and His words to her, “I have to be about my Father’s business…Woman, how does this concern of yours concern me?” But Mama Mary kept her heart open to the grace that would support her in fidelity to Christ even at the cross. She will and she can help us to do the same today.
In this Eucharist, Jesus offers us the same sufficient grace that filled the heart of Mary and transformed St. Paul in his own weaknesses. No matter the myriad of things or persons that may offend us today, He still offers us also His inner joy, healing, and peace that come from being open to His grace. We do not have to be slaves of our upset feelings that close our hearts to love but we can be faithful to Him in all the face of all these upsetting things. Like Mama Mary and with her help, we only need to keep our hearts open to His mysterious love and powerful grace and refuse to take offense at Him for any reason.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!