Today’s Gospel from Luke 17:1-6 brings together some important teachings of Jesus. First He says that while scandals will happen, woe to the person through whom they occur. Better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around one’s neck than to cause a little one to sin.
Then He tells His disciples that even if their brother sins against them seven times in a day, each time he returns to say he’s sorry they should forgive him.
Lastly, the Apostles ask the Lord to increase their faith. Why would St. Luke this include this saying right after the discussion on scandal and forgiveness?
Scandals will come, but Our Lord says be on guard. By “scandal” the Church means conduct that leads others to sin (see Catechism, nos. 2284-87). Some sins are quite complementary. For example, sins of immodest dress and behavior can lead others to lust and sexual sins. Misconduct among Church leaders, even without the rhetorical flourish and exaggeration that we come upon in the media, can cause us to sin against faith and charity, and possibly provide the impetus for people to leave the Church. I’ve seen it happen.
Just because scandalous activity occurs, however, doesn’t mean we have to let it lead us astray, as though the millstone were around us, too! Our Lord gives us two positive things we can do when confronted with scandal: forgive and pray for an increase of faith. The latter helps us to see things through God’s eyes, and the former enables us to be “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18-20).
For more in-depth treatment of this subject, see CUF’s Faith Fact on responding to scandals in the Church at http://www.cuf.org/Faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=198