Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Obviously, Jesus is speaking metaphorically here. Clearly He was not suggesting capital punishment for the sin of being a bad example. But this statement leaves no doubt as to what our God thinks of anyone who leads a little one astray. In our world today, there are many sick and warped individuals who prey on, and take advantage of, the young. But there is one obvious fact that I think every parent can attest to. You have to be careful of what you say and do around kids because they do listen and they do learn from what they see the grown-ups say and do. In other words, we have to be conscious of, and aware of, the effect our words and actions have on those close to us, especially the young. Jesus is reminding us of our responsibility to set a good example. Even the small and seemingly insignificant things we say and do can have life-long effects on the little ones. This is a powerful fact of life that we must never forget.
I always like to look to stories that help summarize each gospel story. And what spoke to me this weekend was a passage from Charles Dickens’ book, “A Christmas Carol”. I know we are all familiar with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, and I apologize for saying the word “Christmas” when we haven’t even seen Halloween yet, but if you recall in that story, Ebenezer Scrooge was confronted by the ghost of his dead partner Jacob Marley. And so, I’ll quote from that book.
“Jacob Marley raised a cry and shook his chain. ‘You are fettered,’ said Scrooge trembling. ‘Tell me why?’
‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the ghost. ‘I made it link by link and yard by yard. I girded it on my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Oh captive, – bound and double-ironed,’ cried Jacob Marley. – ‘Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space or regret can make amends for life’s opportunities missed. Yet such was I. Oh, such was I.’
‘You were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
‘Business!’ cried the ghost. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were my business. The dealings of my trade – were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.’
‘Oh why did I walk through the crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to the blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?’
Then Jacob Marley walked backward from Scrooge, and at every step he took, the window raised itself a little, so that when he reached it, it was wide open. He beckoned Scrooge to approach and as he did so, Scrooge became sensible of confused noises in the air, incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret.
Scrooge looked out and saw that the air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains. The misery of them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human maters. But they had lost the power to do so forever.”
And so it is with you and me. The welfare of our fellow man is our business. Our job is not to lead others astray, but rather to lead them to Jesus. Our job is to prepare the way that leads to Jesus, and to remove any obstacle that hinders that path. And our job is to ministers to our fellow man in the name of Jesus.
Pope Francis said, “I want to share with you the joy of having Jesus as teacher and as a model for our lives. Looking at Jesus we see He chose the path of humility and service. — Jesus decided to become a man and as a man to become a servant until His death on the cross. This is the way of love. There is no other.”
We are called to give witness to our faith in Christ Jesus; and we witness by being an example of what it means to be Christ like. We witness to, and lead others to Jesus, by sharing His love with others, and we do this by following the example set by our loving Savior, humbly loving and serving one another.