Reading: Luke 17.1-6
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, “I repent”, you must forgive.’
The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.’
Today’s reading seems very relevant as we live through these challenging times of renewed lockdown. Having endured three months of restrictions earlier in the year, this second time around seems to be accompanied by many more people asking searching questions about motivations and practicalities. Despite the scientific and medical evidence many of us wonder if this is, indeed, the best course of action.
The reality is, of course, that none of us are in a position to understand. We all have opinions, but we have neither the facts nor the knowledge required to make informed decisions about the best way forward. We are forced to rely on those who are better informed and charged with the responsibility of leadership. But … we are all human beings. We all do have opinions. We all feel that we have the right not only to express our opinions, but also to live our lives in the spirit of freedom that is the blessing of living in this country. But … is that the responsible way forward?
Jesus understands the shortcomings of humanity. Jesus knows that we make mistakes. Jesus knows that, by following our personal instincts and inclinations, we lead others down paths that should not be trod. However, all is not doom and gloom. Rather than condemning humanity out of hand, Jesus offers us a warning. Jesus warns each of us to: Be on our guard! We need to be careful that, by exercising our ‘right’ to follow our personal instincts and inclinations, we are not forgetting that we also have a responsibility to love our neighbours as ourselves. We need to journey through these days with this warning ringing in our ears.
Jesus also offers us another message that is relevant in these times. Jesus wants us to be like him in recognizing that other people do ‘get it wrong’. But … we need also to be like him in giving them the room to repent, that is to turn from their mistaken ways, say sorry and reconnect with the rest of us as we move forward together.
So … as we live under new restrictions, let us not focus on the negative. Let us not decide to ignore the welfare and needs of others. Let us remember that, as well as rights, we have responsibilities. Let us be like Jesus in the way we love and nurture those with whom we share this life. Let us be like Jesus as we adopt a renewed attitude of love, acceptance and forgiveness.