On Our Lord’s Warning against Giving Scandal.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On Our Lord’s Warning against Giving Scandal.
Imagine that you behold our Lord when, after the disciples strife for precedence, He delivers an emphatic discourse upon giving scandal, to teach them to beware of it. Imagine that from His own divine lips you hear the words: “Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come; but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.” (St. Matt, xviii. 7.)
1st. Consider that scandal is the occasion of sin. Any one who gives his fellow man occasion of sin, is guilty of the sin of scandal. There is a deep significance in the fact that it was immediately after the disciples had been disputing which of them should be the greater that our Lord warned them against this fault. St. Paschasius has an admirable passage on this subject: “If the apostles had continued to entertain this quarrelsome, haughty temper, they might very easily have caused the loss of the converts they had recently made, if those ‘little ones’ who were still weak in faith, had seen how the apostles disputed amongst themselves for honor and precedence.” Alas for Christendom! How much scandal is given, how many little ones, whose faith is feeble, are perplexed and bewildered, how much mischief is occasioned by such jealous craving for distinction, such contention for the first and foremost place, such intriguing to obtain higher dignities! How quick the people are to observe this fault in their pastors, and how hurtful it is for their souls if they do so! How many scandals in Religious Communities are due to this cause! Think over this, examine your own conduct in this respect, and make suitable resolutions.
2d. Consider the awful, appalling nature of the sentence which our Lord passes upon those who give scandal. “He that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a mill-stone should be hanged about his neck and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (v. 6.) For the death of the body were a fate more preferable for him than the death of the soul, and it would not be so terrible, by far, to be cast into the depth of the sea, as to be precipitated into the abyss of hell. This spiritual death, this casting into hell, is the lot awarded to him who gives scandal, and sad to say, also to a large proportion of those who are scandalized by him, whom he leads to commit sin. Recall to mind, my soul, all that our Lord did and suffered to save souls; think of the shedding of blood, the cruel wounds, the agony and grief which the redemption of one single soul cost Him, and you will then form a just conception of the heinous guilt of those who by giving scandal cause the death of one such soul. They are the confederates, the servants, the tools of the devil, of him who was a murderer from the beginning; hence the awful condemnation our Lord passes on them. Ask yourself my soul, ere you proceed further, if you have never scandalized one of your Brethren, your Sisters? Do not be too easy with yourself, and carefully avoid giving offence to the weak. The Apostle says: “If meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh, lest I scandalize my brother.” (I. Cor. viii. 13.) Do you imitate him in this respect?
3d. Consider our Lord’s concluding words: “See that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you that their angels in Heaven always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven.” (v. 10.) Thus, as St. Chrysostom bids us observe, not only must we not scandalize the little ones, not only must we not treat them slightingly, but they are to be highly honored, because the Lord loves them and by the medium of His angels constitutes Himself their protector. No one, be he ever so lowly, ever so destitute, ever so poorly endowed with bodily or mental gifts, are we warranted in despising and treating with contempt, or we shall give offence to his angel. Impress this truth upon your mind; your fellow man on whom perhaps you look with a scornful eye, has an angel, one of the princes of Heaven given to him by God, to be his guardian, his companion throughout his earthly course. The remembrance of this will surely make you avoid those contemptuous thoughts, depreciating judgments and slighting behavior, by which you have frequently given offence to your Brother, and at the same time displeased God and the holy angels. On one occasion one of the Friars Minor was heard to say of an insolent mendicant: “Judging, by externals, one would take that man for a poor, abject creature, but if one could look into his heart, it would perhaps be seen that he was the proudest, most luxury loving individual in the country round.” St. Francis sharply rebuked the speaker. “My son,” he said, “thou hast spoken against a poor man, and what is more, thou hast insulted Christ, who presents Himself to us in the person of the poor.” How often, my soul, do you think that this holy Father might have addressed that reproof to you?
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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