It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin…
Monday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 TI 1:1-9
for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones
and the recognition of religious truth,
in the hope of eternal life
that God, who does not lie, promised before time began,
who indeed at the proper time revealed his word
in the proclamation with which I was entrusted
by the command of God our savior,
to Titus, my true child in our common faith:
grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.For this reason I left you in Crete
so that you might set right what remains to be done
and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you,
on condition that a man be blameless,
married only once, with believing children
who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious.
For a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless, not arrogant,
not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive,
not greedy for sordid gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness,
temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled,
holding fast to the true message as taught
so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine
and to refute opponents.
Responsorial Psalm PS 24:1B-2, 3-4AB, 5-6
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Alleluia PHIL 2:15D, 16A
Shine like lights in the world,
as you hold on to the word of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 17:1-6
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the one through whom they occur.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck
and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Be on your guard!
If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’
you should forgive him.”
And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
Today the Gospel gives us three different words of Jesus: one on how to avoid causing scandal or scandalizing the little ones, the other one on the importance of pardon and a third one on Faith in God which we should have.
• Luke 17, 1-2: First word: To avoid scandal. “Jesus said to his disciples: “It is unavoidable that there are scandals, but alas for the one through whom they occur. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round the neck than to be the downfall of a single one of these little ones”. To cause scandal is that which makes people trip and fall. At the level of faith, it means that which drives away the person from the right path: to scandalize the little ones, to be for them the cause to draw away from God and make them lose their faith in God. Anyone who does this deserves the following sentence: “A millstone round the neck and to be thrown into the sea!”
Why such severity? This is because Jesus identifies himself with the little ones, with the poor (Mt 25, 40.45). They are those he prefers, the first ones to whom the Good News will be given (cf. Lk 4, 18). Anyone who touches them touches Jesus! Throughout the centuries, many times, we Christians because of our way of living faith have been the cause why the little ones have drawn away from the Church and have gone towards other religions. They have not been able, any longer, to believe, as the Apostle said in the Letter to the Romans, quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “In fact, it is your fault that the name of God is held in contempt among the nations.”(Rm 2, 24; Is 52, 5; Ez 36, 22). Up to what point are we guilty, it is our fault? Do we also deserve the millstone round the neck?
• Luke 17, 3-4: Second word: Forgive your brother. “If your brother does something wrong rebuke him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I am sorry’, you must forgive him”. Seven times a day! This is not little! Jesus asks very much! In the Gospel of Matthew, He says that we should forgive seventy times seven! (Mt 18, 22). Forgiveness and reconciliation are some of the themes on which Jesus insists the most. The grace to be able to forgive persons and to reconcile them among themselves and with God was granted to Peter (Mt 16, 19), to the Apostles (Jn 20, 23) and to the community (Mt 18, 18). The parable on the need to forgive our neighbour leaves no doubt: if we do not forgive our brothers, we cannot receive the pardon from God (Mt 18, 22-35; 6, 12.15; Mk 11, 26). And there is no proportion between the pardon that we receive from God and the pardon that we have to offer to our neighbour. The pardon with which God forgives us gratuitously is like ten thousand talents compared to one hundred denarii (Mt 18, 23-35). It is estimated that ten thousand talents are 174 tons of gold; one hundred denarii are not more than 30 grams of gold.
• Luke 17, 5-6: Third word: Increase our faith. “The apostles said to the Lord: ‘Increase our faith!’” The Lord answered: If you had faith like a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’, and it would obey you”. In this context of Luke, the question of the apostles seems to be motivated by the order of Jesus to forgive up to seventy times seven, in one day, the brother or the sister who sins against us. It is not easy to forgive. It is only with great faith in God that it is possible to reach the point of having such a great love that it makes it possible for us to forgive up to seventy times seven, in one day, the brother who sins against us. Humanly speaking, in the eyes of the world, to forgive in this way is foolish and a scandal, but for us this attitude is the expression of divine wisdom which forgives us infinitely much more. Paul said: “We announce Christ crucified scandal for the Jews and foolishness for the gentiles (I Co 1, 23).
• In my life, have I been some times, a cause of scandal for my neighbour? Or, sometimes, have others been a cause of scandal for me?
• Am I capable to forgive seven times a day my brother or my sister who offends me, seven times a day?
Sing to him, make music for him,
recount all his wonders!
Glory in his holy name,
let the hearts that seek Yahweh rejoice! (Ps 105,2-3)
The first reading from the letter of St Paul to Titus speaks about the responsibilities and qualities of a representative of God. Although this letter speaks about the elders of the Church, pastors and bishop, it is applicable to all insofar as we exercise the role of elder in our family, community and place of work. Indeed, all of us as parents, teachers, seniors, mentors and leaders are called to be the representative of God.
More than ever today, we need to underscore the grave responsibility of leaders. Unfortunately, leaders today are reducible to corporate leaders where their responsibility is basically to bring in business and profits. Government leaders are expected to ensure peace, law and order in the country and economic progress. However, political and corporate leaders are no longer seen as mentors for others in how they live their lives. Focus is on what they can produce; not about their lifestyle and moral character. This is a sad and tragic reality of society. Our leaders are no longer exemplary in their life and conduct. Those who stand for office in government may be criminals and liars. Yet they are elected because they have influence, power and money. What happened to those candidates with high moral values?
Indeed, in the gospel, Jesus reminds us that as leaders, parents and elders, we can either inspire those who are under our charge or cause them to lose faith in people and society. Quite often, because of the behavior of our parents and leaders, we lose faith in them as they are not credible. When we do not trust in the integrity of our leaders, they have lost the moral authority to govern. This also explains why taking advantage of children, especially abusing them, physically, emotionally and sexually, is a serious crime against humanity. In cases of pedophilia, the penalty is severe because they ruin the future of those children they abused. Many of us continue to lick our wounds from our upbringing by our parents, grandparents and relatives. Those under our care should see us as their mentors and as representatives of God.
Consequently, Jesus urged the disciples to “Watch yourselves!” How can we be alert to the dangers of being counter-witnesses to the love of God? Firstly, we need to remember who we are. St Paul from the outset called himself “servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” He was very clear that he was a slave of our Lord and therefore his entire life belonged to God, not to himself. His desire was to serve God his master by doing everything in accordance to His will. As an apostle of Jesus Christ, he was also aware that he had been sent. An apostle is one who is sent. So his messages did not come from him but from Christ who sent him. Because he was sent, he depended and relied only on our Lord Jesus Christ.
We too are called to be the servant of God and to be His apostle. We are called to give our lives entirely to the Lord for His service to His people. As such, our concern is to do the will of God and to please Him our master. We must not think highly of ourselves, as if we are our own masters. Christ is our master and we are only His servants. All prophets, priests and kings in the scriptures understood that they were servants of God. As apostles, as sent, we should therefore remember that we are ambassadors, acting on Christ’s behalf. We take our guidance from Him and we do not proclaim ourselves but our Lord and His message. We are only deputized and we are to draw people to Christ and not to ourselves.
Secondly, we must be conscious of our mission. We are called to be God’s representatives, “to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion; and to give them the hope of the eternal life that was promised so long ago by God.” As leaders, we must inspire faith so that they too will have faith in God. In what we do, we need to let our faith shine through us not just by our words but also by our actions so that others will be drawn to faith in the God whom we worship. We are also to help them grow in the understanding of the truth. As God’s representative, we are to instruct those under our charge in the truth about God and about life. Christ, for us, is of course the truth in person. Leading a person to Christ through the study of the Word of God, scripture and tradition of the Church helps a person to grow in faith. And finally, the ultimate goal of faith and instruction in the ultimate truth is to lead others to the fullness of life in Christ. We must never forget that our life does not end here on earth but continues into the next life. The fullness of life is when we share in the life of God. To that extent, this hope of humanity is fulfilled.
Thirdly, to fulfill our mission as God’s representative, we need to work on our character. This is where St Paul instructs us on the virtues that we need to acquire as God’s representative. Without leaders with high moral standing, those in power and in authority will not succeed. Indeed, the greatest challenge of leaders is to walk the talk before they can lead others. Leaders teach ultimately by their being, by their examples and by their lives. Accordingly, St Paul gave the essential qualities of an elder.
Twice he reiterated that leaders must be of irreproachable character. They need to be people with integrity and honesty. This is the first quality of a good elder. Otherwise, people will not respect him. What we need today are witnesses and mentors, not teachers who tell us what to do when they themselves cannot do them. This also explains why St Paul demanded that elders should be exemplary in managing their own families and household if they were to manage the family of God. “He must not have been married more than once, and his children must be believers and not uncontrollable or liable to be charged with disorderly conduct.” If he cannot manage his own family, how could he manage the family of God?
Secondly, the representative of God must learn how to practice self-control and self-discipline. Again, if we cannot manage our own lives, how can we help to manage the lives of others? St Paul says that he must not ever be “an arrogant or hot-tempered man, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor out to make money; but a man who is hospitable and a friend of all that is good; sensible, moral, devout and self-controlled.” Indeed, leaders and parents who shout at us, threaten us with violence or lack humility in dealing with people of lesser status often put us off. The leaders that inspire are those who even in their greatness remain humble, polite, courteous, respectful and considerate. These are the real inspiring leaders because they project themselves as servants of God, not as masters of man.
Thirdly, a representative of God cannot afford to be materialistic and money-minded. When he is “out to make money” or to make a name for himself, he is not truly serving God or His people but himself. A true leader is always thinking of others’ interests and well-being. He does not seek to elevate or increase his wealth and power but to bring about a greater good for all. For that reason, one who is truly the representative remains indifferent and detached from money and status, seeing them as means for him to exercise hospitality to all and to do works of mercy for those in need of assistance.
Fourthly, a true leader must know his work well. A religious leader must know the doctrines and the teachings of the Church well if he were to guide his people. He must be ever ready to defend the truth and to stand up for Christ. Unless, we leaders are well versed in what we should know and be ready to give a reason for our hope and our passion, we cannot lead others to share in our vision and mission. This calls for ongoing formation and reflection each day. Leaders must always be forming themselves so that they can form others. We need to grow in our faith each day. Leaders must seek to strengthen their faith in the Lord more and more each if they are to lead. Unfortunately, leaders often tell people what to do but never practice what they teach others. The irony is that they save the souls of others and lose their own!
Of course, as leaders we know that we are far from perfect. We must be ready to seek correction and forgiveness. None of us is ever worthy to be a leader. So long as we are striving to become the servant leader and the apostle that He wants us to be, we should be ready to learn and grow. “He shall receive blessings from the Lord and reward from the God who saves him. Such are the men who seek him, seek the face of the God of Jacob.” Those of us who are followers need to be realistic and not have high expectations of impeccability in our leaders. Hence, Jesus invites us to seek forgiveness from each other. “If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry”, you must forgive him.’” So long as leaders are sincere in serving God and people, we must be forgiving and tolerant. We should not lose faith too easily just because our leaders fail us as God’s representative. God is greater than His human and fallible representatives. But if we have faith just “the size of a mustard seed” we could do great things for the Lord who works through us in spite of our inadequacies.
Tags: a representative of God, a representative of God cannot afford to be materialistic, albatross, Apostle of Jesus Christ, bishops, called to be the servant of God and to be His apostle, Drop the rock, elders, God's will, Increase our faith, Jesus urged the disciples to “Watch yourselves!”, Lk 17:1-6, millstone, November 7 2016, pastors, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 24, responsibility of leaders, resurrection is a source of hope and consolation for us all, serve others, service to others, ti 1:1-9, will of God