Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Third Sunday after Easter—21 April A.D. 2013
Good Example, Scandal, Hypocrisy

Ordinary of the Mass
Latin Mass Text-3rd Sunday
English Mass Text-3rd Sunday

“Refrain from ... desires that war against the soul, that they may,
by the good works that they behold in you, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

    In today's Epistle Saint Peter speaks of one of the most powerful tools there is to spread the Gospel of the Lord;  that is good example.  More than any preaching or teaching you might do;  more than any writing or literature that you might distribute;  more than any arguing or cajoling you might undertake;  the most powerful influence you can exert in order to bring people closer to Christ and the Christian faith is the power of keeping that faith yourself.  This was Saint Peter's advice to the early Christians during a time of severe persecution, and it seems to have held true over the centuries.  If people can look at the way you live your life and see that Christ is an essential part of your existence, they are intellectually compelled to consider Christ for themselves.  If they see that Christ is something like food, air, and water to you, they must at least pause to consider whether something might not be missing in their lives.

    And if good example is so important, it takes little imagination to see how damaging bad example, or scandal, can be.  If anyone of us behaves as though God does not matter, we confirm this same error in the minds of all those around us.  If, for example, we Catholics take the name of God in vain habitually, we convince non-Catholics—and maybe even other Catholics—that we don't believe our religion to be anything more than a pleasant fiction.  And the same is true of every other demonstration that we give by publicly flaunting God's laws.

    I am suggesting here that our sins take on an extra dimension of evil when we commit them in public;  and particularly when we create the public impression that sin is only a trivial matter.  We take on the added obligation of trying to make reparation;  of trying to correct the mistake impression we have given to those around us.

    This sin of scandal seems to be one of the great moral problems of the modern world.  Fifty or a hundred years ago, people committed most of the same sins that they commit today—but for the most part they knew that sin was wrong and shameful, so they didn't go about sinning publicly, nor did they expect to get public approval of their evil deeds.  If nothing else, this sort of discretion had the effect of “slowing people down in their sinning”; of restricting them to times when they thought they would not be caught.  Years ago the sinner might have felt that he couldn't keep himself from sinning, but he certainly didn't want everyone else picking up on his bad example, and behaving as he did—he knew that would further offend God and undermine the society in which he lived.

    If you think I am advocating hypocrisy, I am not.  For sin is never right, be it in public, or in private.  Hypocrisy is not keeping your sins to yourself.  Hypocrisy is the illusion—perhaps “delusion” is the word    that it is somehow okay for me to sin, but not for anybody else—that I am somehow better than everyone else, and beyond responsibility or accountability.

    And hypocrisy is often accompanied by something that we call “pharisaical scandal” —where, just like the Pharisees we hear about so often in the Gospels, we are quick to call attention to the sins and faults of others in an attempt to make ourselves appear better by comparison.  This is the fellow, for example, who calls attention to someone else's drinking problem so that conversation won't get around to his womanizing problem.

    And the answer, again, to all of this is that we must follow Saint Peter’s advice.  If we concern ourselves primarily with our own behavior and the need to give good example, we won't find ourselves becoming hypocrites, and we won't find ourselves giving scandal to those around us.

    Life is relatively short—and then it is followed by eternity.  That is what our Lord is telling us about in the Gospel.  We need to exercise discipline, and perhaps endure a little personal discomfort and suffering;  that's the nature of the material world, and the nature of being a Christian.  We are to be “in the world, but not of it,” and this sometimes rubs the world the wrong way.  While the world is “rejoicing” sometimes we have to “weep and lament” a little.

    This giving of good example may be a little bit difficult at times;  but it means that we will see our Lord again—and our hearts shall rejoice—and our joy no one shall take from us.

Dei via est íntegra
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