11Nov 11 November 2013. Monday of the Thirty Second Week

Wis 1:1ff. Think of the Lord constantly, and seek his guidance daily.

Lk 17:1ff. Our Lord’s guidance about scandal, forgiveness and faith.

First Reading: Wisdom 1:1-7

Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth, think of the Lord in goodness and seek him with sincerity of heart; because he is found by those who do not put him to the test, and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him.

For perverse thoughts separate people from God, and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish; because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, or dwell in a body enslaved to sin. A holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will leave foolish thoughts behind, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness.

For wisdom is a kindly spirit, but will not free blasphemers from the guilt of their words; because God is witness of their inmost feelings, and a true observer of their hearts, and a hearer of their tongues. Because the spirit of the Lord has filled the world, and that which holds all things together knows what is said,

Gospel: Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent, ‘ you must forgive.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea, ‘ and it would obey you.

Lives Firmly Planted

This week draws on the Book of Wisdom, the last of the sapiential books, written in the time of the Maccabees and the Prophecy of Daniel, where the Jews suffered for their fidelity to the Mosaic law in their daily living. The Book of Daniel, like 2 Maccabees, reflects an era of persecution and hopes for a new age for Israel.

But whatever the twists and turns of history we are meant to live with two feet firmly planted on earth, and the Wisdom tradition often centres on earthly concerns. God accepts us whoever we are and wherever we happen to live, whatever may be our personal setting. In its opening essay, the Book of Wisdom introduces many pointers to maintaining a steady personality: to seek integrity of heart; avoid foolish advice; not to put God to the test; to be ready to rebuke injustice and yet keep guard over our tongue. Yet within this practical counsel we note a background awareness of the divine presence: for God listens to all that is said. The Jewish writer who composed the book among the diaspora in Egypt also provides a larger setting for life, with heart and mind sensitive to the divine presence in a God-filled universe. No place is too small, no question too trifling, nor any problem too complex, for God not to be close at hand, supporting us. Paul utters a similar insight when he says, “Whether we eat or drink, whatever you do, do all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

Today’s gospel tackles a real problem among people who are high-minded, trustful and idealistic: they can easily be scandalized. Some might say such people just need to be more streetwise and hardened to life, but Jesus defends such innocence and warns against giving scandal. On the other hand, these idealistic people often find it difficult to forgive. Because virtue comes as second nature to them, they cannot appreciate the force of temptation felt by others, or they are so obsessed with their own scale of values, that they fail to see goodness in the different values of others. The inability of pious folk to forgive may prove a scandal to the less religious person. One’s quest for holiness needs to be balanced by faith in God’s activity in the lives of others.