"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. (Mk. 9:42-43)."
This week's Gospel is from St. Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48.
There are two very practical lessons we must learn from today's Gospel: the grave obligation we have of not causing scandal to our fellow-Christians or indeed to any man or woman and secondly, the willingness we should have to sacrifice any earthly possession which is a cause of sin to us.
Scandal, the sin of being a cause or an occasion of another's sin, is doubly sinful involving one's own sin and the sin of the person scandalized. Scandal can be caused by word—that is, by teaching or propagating wrong doctrine or by giving sinful advice, and it can be caused by one's own sinful deeds which may be imitated by others. Those in positions of authority such as parents whose duty it is to bring up their children in the Christian faith, are especially liable to give scandal if they fail to live truly Christian lives. Christian parents who fail to live according to their faith will be held accountable not only for their own sins, but for the sins of their children and perhaps their children's children for generations to come.
Much, if not all of today's moral laxity and permissiveness can be blamed on parents who have failed to give the example of true Christian living in the home and in dealings with their neighbors. To children of such parents, Christianity is only a label; it does not inform or inspire their lives, hence they are only nominal Christians. It is true that there may be "black sheep" in the best of Christian homes. When, however, all the children of a home are "black sheep" the whiteness, the sincerity, of the parents of such a home must certainly be called into question. There may be many bad influences at work outside the home but the good example of truly Christian parents can counteract these influences. Let parents see to it that they will not be a cause of scandal and a cause of eternal loss to the children God put into their charge.
The second lesson for all of us in today's Gospel is that we should ever realize that eternal life is worth any sacrifice which we may be called on to make. The road we have to travel in life is not an easy one. As our Lord says in another place: "Enter by the narrow gate for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Mt. 7: 13). We wish to reach heaven, therefore we must be prepared to follow Christ; we must not allow others to lead us astray but be prepared and determined to conquer and resist our own evil inclinations also.
O God, who manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy, bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us and make those hastening to attain your promises heirs to the treasures of heaven.