Some Sayings of Jesus
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.’
Controversy has always existed within the Church. Despite the divine foundations upon which it is built, it is an organisation that is in the hands of human beings. Those human beings have created a hierarchy for themselves, often ignoring Jesus’ model of love and service, and they make mistakes. Those mistakes are rarely intentional, but they occur nonetheless. As leaders in our churches seek to serve those entrusted to their care, they make mistakes. Again, those mistakes are rarely intentional, but they are quickly pounced upon by those who consider themselves to be more knowledgeable, more worthy of respect and honour. It is from these tiny roots that great schisms arise, and church communities find themselves distanced from God.
Today, Jesus is warning of the dangers of creating unnecessary schisms that are rooted in prejudice and pride, because they will lead others further and further away from him. Jesus’ primary mission on earth was to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God, a place where divine love embraces and honours all. In God’s Kingdom there is no room for any attitude that divides people, because such division leads to alienation from God himself.
Human beings make mistakes. ALL human beings make mistakes. Those who compare their attitudes and behaviours to the teaching of Christ and then seek to make amends are to be forgiven and welcomed with love and generosity. That is the teaching we hear in today’s reading. To ignore this teaching is to place an insurmountable barrier between ourselves and God. Every time we utter those terrible words: I cannot forgive … we are adding another layer of bricks to that barrier, and we are denying our faith.
Today’s reading ends with inspiring words. Jesus tells us that just a tiny amount of true faith will strengthen and guide us along the pilgrimage path that is our mortal life. That tiny amount of faith will also serve to lead and support others through their times of doubt and uncertainty. Let us pray that that vestige of faith, the faith which can perform the ‘impossible’ might be ours.