[Homily: Assumption Chapel. 11.11.19. Based on: Luke 17: 1-6]
In our Gospel reading for today according to Luke Jesus is on his great journey to Jerusalem – where he will enter in glory, take possession of His Father’s temple, then experience rejection, condemnation, his passion, death, and resurrection. On this journey, he has much to say about what it means to be his follower. Luke’s Gospel is addressed to early Christians who were not necessarily Jews. It is also addressed to us.
There are three concerns in today’s Gospel:
First: Do not cause another person to sin.
How does one cause another person to sin? This may be an invitation for you to ask yourselves whether in your lives you cause other persons to sin.
We are ending the liturgical year with the celebration of the Christ the King. How have you in your life caused people to sin because you have effectively led them away from the Kingdom of God, from that life where it is clearly God who is King and not money, God who is King and not the desire for fame and glory, God who is King and not the thirst for power. You do that when in your lives you give no witness to the reality of the Kingdom of God. Your life is filled with noise, and you have no sensitivity to the presence of God, no care for what he wills. You have no prayer life, no need for worship. Life is basically getting by, surviving the mundane challenges of every day, doing what the job requires, and failing to do what God requires. If this is your life, you have already been led away from God, are probably in sin, and you easily lead others away from God. Yet the Gospel is saying not to cause others to sin.
You cause others to sin when you involve them in your hatred for others, when you involve them in your lust and deceive them through your persuasion and rationalization. You cause others to sin when you teach them to be greedy for money as you are greedy, or you teach them to plot and scheme to achieve power as you plot and scheme for power, when you convince them that money and power trump all that is ethical, just and true. Causing others to sin is not rare. That is why our Gospel warns against it.
The punishment for this is dire. “It was better for him if a millstone were to be put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin,” Jesus warns.
The second concern: Help your brother in sin to turn away from sin.
Help your brother in sin to return to the Lord. You cannot just ignore him, “Bahala na siya!” You must, “Rebuke him!” This does not necessarily mean you must scold him, take a holier-than-thou tone. But it does mean that if your friend is being unjust to his workers, or if your friend is cheating in class, or if your colleague teacher is not teaching his students as he should, that you should find a way to talk to him and correct him. And if he has wronged you, you should correct him, and forgive him. St. Luke stresses the importance of Christians’ forgiveness of one another. Here he is saying if he wrongs you seven times, you must forgive him seven times – as often as necessary to lead him back to the Lord.
Finally, the disciples’ request: “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replies that even faith the size of a mustard seed is strong enough for you to command a large mulberry tree to uproot itself and be planted in the sea. Even the smallest measure of faith is powerful enough to do the unlikely. Jesus is talking about the strength of faith, even though faith is not a muscle, not a magical potion for the miraculous. Faith is a relationship, the openness of a person to the presence of God, the readiness of a person to do his will. When we as Ateneans talk about being strong in the faith, fortes in fide, we are talking about being habitually sensitive to his presence and being habitually ready to do his will. This openness to the presence of God in the gentleness of the breeze, in the power of the quaking earth, in the cry of the poor for justice, in the call of the environment to stop its shameless abuse, in the interiorly perceived desire for conversion, is faith. It starts very small, but even in its smallness is very strong. Faith is not about the weakness of man, but about the power of God, and the surprise of man’s relating to him. Faith is the beginning of conversion, but it is also the goal of conversion. It is the motive of love and the warrant for hope. Faith is strong enough to move a Martin of Tours to share his cloak with a beggar, or strong enough to demand that the open-pit mines of Mindanao be uprooted and cast into the sea. If it is strong enough to move mountains, it is also strong enough to quiet you that you may live in the presence of God. It is strong enough through your prayer to prevent you from causing others to sin. It is strong enough in your silence to move another person away from the depression of sin into the joy of God’s fellowship at the table of the Lord.
Do not cause another to sin.
Help your sister or brother return to God.
Pray the Lord to increase your faith.