The Gospel according to Luke (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.”
Opening Prayer: My most compassionate Lord, You love the sinner and deeply desire that they turn to You in their need. Please give me Your heart of compassion so that I will be free to love them as You love them.
Encountering Christ: Working at Mary’s Village I learned how to not only to forgive but to forgive with the compassion that Jesus has taught. But the truth is that these men don’t know or haven’t been forgiven in many years. These men have been in trouble most of their lives with the law, their families, their friends and even society. They are immediately judged and condemned. There is no pause. They are just thought of as a menace and that they are “Wrong”.
Why is it that we are taught to remember all the bad things that happened to us, but we don’t remember all the good things? To be able to tell these men that I forgive them and that I still Love them just blows them away because they haven’t heard any of those words for a long time. Now I do explain there are consequences to their action because that’s the way society is, but they understand. The truth is when you forgive someone, life goes on and you live your life in a much richer and joyous environment. Furthermore, your relationship with that person you forgave (your brother) becomes much stronger. Forgiveness is not saying “I no longer feel the pain.” Rather, forgiveness is saying “I no longer feel the need to hold on to your involvement in my pain.”
Let’s clarify that no one can actually cause us to sin. Sin is our own free choice, and we, and we alone, will be held accountable for our own sin. One thing that Jesus is pointing out here is that even though every person must take responsibility for their own actions and their own sins, we must also take responsibility for the ways that we act as tempters of others. Here’s a shocking statement, “We are all sinners”. Sometimes we will tempt people to sin by provoking them to anger. At other times we will tempt others to sin by setting a poor example. And on the contrary, we also have the ability to “tempt” people to virtue. Or more properly speaking, to inspire and encourage them.
With that said, Jesus explains that the fate of those who act as tempters of others, especially the “little ones,” will suffer consequences graver than an untimely death. The little ones of which Jesus speaks should be understood as those who are weak in faith, overly sensitive, particularly vulnerable at that time in their life, and susceptible to outside influence. This could be a child, or it could be someone who is currently teetering on the edge of despair, confusion, anger, or any serious sin. When you encounter people like this, how do you treat them? The simple truth is that Jesus loves those who are weak, vulnerable, and sinful, and He wants us to love them too.
Closing Prayer: Holy Father, May I never become an instrument of temptation for them to fall further away from You but, instead, become an instrument of Your unfailing mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.
Action of the Day: Pray for the person or persons in your life that appear especially vulnerable, sinful, confused and lost at this time. Who is it that struggles with anger, or an addiction or some sinful lifestyle?