The Gospel Today
Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
Luke 17: 1-6
“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.”
My experiences in life have taught me to avoid being the root of trouble. It is emotionally difficult enough to be in conflict, but more unacceptable is to put others in that distressful condition. In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us to never be the cause of sin; he would rather that we drown ourselves into the bottom of the sea than lead others astray.
It does sound like an invitation to suicide. But let us not make a mistake about it: bringing others to sin is a serious offense before the Lord. We are encouraged to do all we can to avoid being the way for others to fall, to the point of sacrificing our very lives just so others remain on the right path.
The Gospel of Matthew presents more options over sin: cut your hand or foot, or suck out your eye. It is better to be “maimed or crippled” or blind but enter into life, rather than have all the complete faculties but suffer eternal fire (Mt. 18:8-9). In short, leading others to sin plunges us straight into hell, where we will be tormented forever. Which, then, would we rather have? A full life on earth full of sin, or a life steeped in abstinence and avoidance of pleasure but assured of our place in heaven?
This Gospel actually makes reference to “little ones,” either the innocent children in our midst or the more mature individuals who keep a childlike faith in God. For Jesus, these people are the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:1). And to cause them to sin means to make them lose faith, especially by wrong examples.
Whenever I look at into the eyes of children, I always remind myself that I am looking at little innocent ones that see their angels face to face, and that these angles in turn look at the face of God every day (Mt. 18:10). So that’s why I wonder how some of us can abuse these children, or use them as instruments to earn money for example.
I remember this television ad that says “Sa mata ng mga bata, ang ginagawa ng mga matatanda ay tama” (In the eyes of children, whatever older people do is considered as right). That should make us adults more responsible with our actions. For after all, children have the most impressionable minds; they pick up whatever their parents or guardians do or say.
In the same way, we are called to keep the purity of people of simple faith – those, who retain their childlike awe of God in their lives. These are the ones we should never corrupt. Because, what God desires is for us to follow their example, and not the other way around.