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November 8, Monday Luke 17: 1-6
"Scandal and Faith"

There are three sayings of Jesus in this Gospel passage. They are not related, but give an interesting insight into his teachings and how his disciples understood him.

The first saying is about scandalizing the “little ones” – not necessarily children, but the simple, trusting people who made up most of the disciples. They are words addressed to all, but particularly to those in authority, who are “the big ones” by implication. The point Jesus makes is that no one – but specially those in a position of responsibility – should become a stumbling block to the belief of ordinary, simple folk. It would be better to be drowned deep in the sea.

This saying is touched with hyperbole. But Jesus could not have been unaware that his own mission as messiah was a major stumbling block to his disciples. He had said so expressly to Peter. In other words, the commonplace belief in a messiah meant political success, glory, ostentation. The messiah’s own definition of suffering, ignominy and death was very, very hard to take.

The second saying relates to forgiveness as the great lubricant of all community relationships. Without forgiveness there’s simply no community. It’s a word which keeps recurring in the lexicon of Jesus: the need to forgive each other constantly, generously – “seven times seven” – and unconditionally. This teaching relates to the great parables on forgiveness, like the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son and the Unforgiving Servant. His disciples back then, and most of us today, find this hard to practice and conveniently forget it.

The third saying relates to faith, placing our trust in the Lord. The disciples ask for an increase of faith. In another context, they were dismayed that they couldn’t work miracles because of their poor faith. Jesus explains that faith is not a quantity deserving increment, as much as a quality of soul. So even a little faith, “as small as a mustard seed” can have powerful effects; “it can move mountains”.

Put into contemporary language, faith is a relationship with the Lord, which is strong, deep and unshakeable, and the disciple must nurture this relationship with his whole being.

File: Gospel_November_8_2010
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