09 September 2013
Canon William Avis of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was kind enough to send me some of his sermons of this past year about which many of the faithful have asked. Here is the first, from the Third Sunday after Easter, about the sin of scandal:
“Having your conversation good among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by the good works, which they shall behold in you, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 2 Peter 2:12
There is a dark, noxious cloud hanging over us. Its weight crushes, its darkness obscures, its air putrefies. What is this menace upon us? It’s scandal.
Vae mundo a scandalis! “Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.” CCC 2284 “Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.” In other words scandal is the assassination of the soul. Much like the bomb at the Boston Marathon, it shreds all who are around it. But unlike the temporal loss of limb or life, scandal sends others into the eternal abyss of hell.
“But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, says our Lord, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” The Catechism teaches us that  “Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible."  This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,  or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.  Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "
Our Lord warned us saying, “The Son of Man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity. And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Scandal is what prevents and decimates the new evangelization, which we hear so much about. The sinful behavior of Catholics, whether true or “in name only”, turns people away from the Gospel. Much like the wicked sons of Heli, their unjust actions causes man to withdraw from the worship of God. A list too long to recount without vomiting could be made of all the scandals and scandalizers under which our present age suffers. We could name many people, but first we must look to ourselves. Have we caused scandal? Have we led others into sin? Has our sinful conduct brought about the rejection of the Faith by others?
Would be that it were not so! For what shame is upon those who each day pray in the Our Father “Hallowed by Thy name” and yet violate and profane that Name by their deeds and by whose fault God Himself is blasphemed. They are like those rebuked by the Apostle Saint Paul when he said: “For the name of God through you is blasphemed among the Gentiles.” “For according to the sort of life and conduct led by those professing a particular religion, so precisely in the eyes of the multitude will be the opinion held of that religion and of its author.”
Instead we must be the contrary, as says the Roman Catechism: “Those, therefore, who live according to the dictates of the Christian religion which they have embraced, and who regulate their prayers and actions by its precepts, furnish others with a powerful motive for greatly praising, honoring and glorifying the name of our heavenly Father. As for us, it is a duty which the Lord has imposed on us, to lead others by shining deeds of virtue to praise and glorify the name of God. This is how He addresses us in the Gospel: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven; and the Prince of the Apostles says: Having your conversation good among the Gentiles, that they may, by the good works which they shall behold in you, glorify God.”
This of course excludes all hypocrisy for Christ taught us not to appear holy, but to be holy. That means that each day we must convert to the Lord. As the sacred liturgy bids us at each Mass everyday, “Sursum corda! Lift up your hearts!” that they be lifted up to the Lord. Christ did not give us a religion of merely exterior comportment. To the contrary, He commanded us to love the Lord our God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and our whole strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” It is a constant battle to love God with the entirety of our being and our neighbor as ourselves. But if we do, many will be brought to the Truth of the Faith by the goodness of our charity and the beauty of our deeds. Then like the martyrs in Roman times, our witness to Christ will ignite the fire of divine love in the hearts of those who encounter us, and they will have the beginnings of eternal life. In fine, Dissipate that dark cloud of scandal and heed the words of Saint Peter in today’s epistle, “Having your conversation good among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by the good works, which they shall behold in you, glorify God.”