At his morning mass in St. Martha’s House the Pope asked “how often have we heard men and women say: ‘I do not go to church because it is better to be honest at home and not go to church like that man or woman who then do this, this, this …'”
Never cause scandal. Always forgive. This is the advice Pope Francis gave at this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House. Never cause scandal, because “it destroys the faith”. We must “understand the importance of forgiveness”. The Pope stressed that a priest should conduct his life in a non-violent, but “sober” and “irreprehensible” way, in other words his life should be “the antithesis of scandal”. Scandal, he emphasised, “is to proclaim and profess a way of life – ‘I am a Christian’ – and then live like a pagan, who does not believe in anything”. This gives scandal “because there is no witness,” while “the faith is professed in the way you live your life.”
Francis’ reflection was inspired by today’s Gospel reading in which Jesus frankly states that “it would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” Taking his cue from other Gospel readings, Francis then reflected on forgiveness and faith.
“When a Christian man or a Christian woman, who goes to church, is part of the parish, does not live in this way, they cause scandal. How often have we heard men and women say: ‘ I do not go to church because it is better to be honest at home and not go to church like that man or woman who then do this, this, this …’. Scandal destroys, it destroys the faith! And that is why Jesus is so strong: ‘Beware! Watch out! ‘. It would do us good to repeat this today: ‘Be on your guard!’. All of us are capable of causing scandal. We should all know how to forgive, and forgive “forever” as Jesus invites us to do “seven times in a day” if those who have wronged us ask for it and have repented. Jesus, says Pope Francis, “exaggerates to make us understand the importance of forgiveness” because “a Christian who is not able to forgive causes scandal: he is not a Christian.”
“We have to forgive, because we have been forgiven. This is in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us about it there. Human logic is incapable of fathoming this. Human logic leads us not to forgive, to seek revenge; it leads to hate, division. How many families have broken up because unable to forgive, how many families! Children separated from their parents, husbands and wives who have grown distant form each other … It is so important to think about this: If I do not forgive I don’t, it appears, have the right to be forgiven and I do not understand what it means that God has forgiven me. This is the second word, forgiveness”.
So we understand, said Pope Francis, “why when the disciples heard this, they said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’. Without faith you cannot live without scandal and always forgiving. Only the light of faith, the faith that we have received: the faith of a merciful Father, a Son who gave His life for us, a Spirit that is within us and helps us grow, faith in the Church, faith in the people of God, baptized and holy. And this is a gift, faith is a gift. No one with books, going to conferences, can have faith. Faith is a gift of God that comes to you.”
DOMENICO AGASSO JR