Reflection & Dialogue: Good example. Christian life requires mutual support
In the second reading today, and in others places in his letters, Paul refers to members of his churches being imitators of himself. Paul regarded Christian living and good example as highly important for the mission of the Church. The followers of Christ were called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and this among other ways, by their good works. Another truth stressed in the Gospel and by Paul is the cohesion that should exist among members of the believing community, by mutual support rather than by placing obstacles and stumbling blocks. Jesus used strong words when speaking about this, saying to his disciples: “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). The “little ones” are not children (there were no children among Jesus followers) but disciples whose faith in Christ might be in danger. Paul expresses a similar concern in his letters. There was a diversity of personalities within the church, some with “strong” faith, others weak; some with formed consciences, others with weak consciences, easily disturbed in their faith. But all had faith in Christ, and Paul urges members of his churches to welcome one another, just as Christ had welcomed all into the church. This internal cohesion in the church was regarded as essential. All were members of the one Body of Christ, called on to support and strengthen one another’s faith.
A question for us today is how make use of those basic truths in today’s world. It is necessary that believers’ good deeds shine before others, to give glory to our heavenly Father. There is, however, the danger that one seeks oneself, rather than God’s glory in one’s deeds. And Christ has warned against this too, good deeds done before others to be seen by them. And with regard to cohesion, mutual support, and lack of placing stumbling blocks, today stress is on the individual, rather than on the community, and we all know the danger of support for support’s sake, resulting in the covering up of scandals. There have been, and continue to be, scandals and shortcomings which must be revealed.
And yet, while granting all this, the teaching of the Gospels and the early Church with regard to cohesion and mutual support in the interest of building up the church still remains. We are all called to continue this work, and to have due attention to the “little ones”, to those with questions, scruples, and whose faith may be in danger. Christ has great concern for these; so should all believers.