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A Reflection from Father King
When we hear the word ‘scandal’ we automatically think of the National Enquirer and stories about pop stars, movie stars, sports stars, some politicians, and reality TV stars. Their actions often cause indignation and controversy as well as curiosity that feeds much of the gossip in news channels and social media. We have reduced the meaning of that word to a very narrow definition although it means much more.
The word ‘scandal’ comes from the Greek word for obstacle – a stumbling block – that could knock someone down as they walk along, such as when a man sticks his foot out to trip someone as they pass by. Since a very early time in the Church, scandal has been regarded as part of the moral life: “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). Scandal is an evil action, or an evil word, or omission to act or speak correctly, that leads another person to spiritual ruin. By it a person actively entices a person to evil or passively encourages them through bad example.
For example, those who supply pornography are providing others with a temptation to engage in the sin of lust – preying on their curiosity and weakness to sin. Of course, a person – through virtue and seeking out the help of Christ’s grace – can resist that temptation. Sometimes people are offended by the words or actions of a person which are actually good, but their words and actions offend the weakness or even malice of others. Such was the case of those who took offence at Jesus’ words, and this continues to be the case in our days with those who take offence at the Church’s teaching – especially its moral teaching.
We are each pilgrims in this lifelong pilgrimage. We therefore have a responsibility to one another to reach the end of our life’s journey which is to be worthy of Christ’s kingdom where we will dwell with Him for all eternity. That is a goal that is dependent on our faithful following of Christ. We can, by our words or actions or omissions, prevent others from following Jesus in their lives or we can lead them down a false road altogether. Nowadays we are often afraid to offend others with our morals and with the Church’s teachings, but in doing so we may actually be encouraging souls to abandon Christ and with that to abandon the life He offers. Over the next weeks or months, I hope to address this topic and provide you with an understanding of this aspect of our responsibility to one another.