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Scandals and the duty to give good example

In the gospel, Christ told us clearly that scandals cannot be avoided in this world. “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur,” he said. “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.” (Lk 17,1-2)

We need to be prepared to properly handle this unavoidable condition in our life. We should try our best not to scandalize others. Instead, we should do all we can to give good example and edify others. And since we cannot avoid scandals, we should learn how to toughen ourselves so as not to be scandalized by them. Instead, we should see how we can correct and help those who cause scandals.

We have to be most careful about the danger of scandal, both in its active and passive aspects, since this danger is now rampant. In fact, we can say that the danger has become part of the world culture, promoted not only by individuals, but also by big and powerful institutions like the media, and in the fields of politics, business, entertainment, sports, etc.

For this, we truly need to have the very love that God has for all of us. It’s a love that is not scandalized by anything. It, of course, continues to maintain that what is wrong is wrong, what is sinful and evil is sinful and evil. It does not compromise the truth of things.

But that fact should not take away one’s love for the person who happens to be wrong not only in some matters of opinion but also in some very serious matters, like matters of faith, hope and charity.

It’s a love that clearly shows one is with God and is following the new commandment Christ gave us—that we love one another as he himself has loved us. (cfr. Jn 13,34) It’s a love that was clearly described by St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (13,7)

To avoid scandalizing others, we should focus more on giving good example. That way, we would be most sensitive to our duty not to scandalize others. We would be aware that we are following Christ’s command and will, and not just pursuing our own agenda in life.

Let us hope that we can echo sincerely in our heart what St. Paul once said: “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor 11,1) This should be the motive and the attitude we have in desiring to give good example to others. It is to imitate Christ, to have his mind, to identify ourselves with his will and ways.

Everyday, we have to come out with a concrete plan to fulfill this duty of giving good example to others. It may just be as little as smiling, or reacting calmly when some disappointment comes our way, or saying something nice about somebody whose faults and mistakes are obvious, or showing compassion to those in difficulty and offering mercy to those who may have done us wrong, etc.

Part of our sense of accountability at the end of the day should be to present to God in our examination of conscience the concrete things we have done to give good example to others.*

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