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.
For 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.
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."
This week draws on the Book of Wisdom, the last of the sapiential books to be written. Then in the two weeks that follow we will read from the two Books of Maccabees and the Prophecy of Daniel, where the Jews suffered for their fidelity to the Mosaic law in its prescriptions for daily and family living. The Book of Daniel, like Maccabees, reflects an era of intense persecution; and particularly in Daniel we have a glimpse of the glorious coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven.
We are to live with two feet firmly planted on earth. The Old Testament often strikes us as a very earthy document, yet no less valuable for that. God accepts us whoever we are and wherever we happen to live, whatever may be our family or neighbourhood setting. Already in its opening essay, the Book of Wisdom introduces many practical pointers or warnings for this steady positioning of ourselves: seeking integrity of heart; avoiding foolish advice; not putting God to the test; the duty to rebuke injustice; keeping guard over our tongue. We note the sense of God's presence within this practical counsel: for God listens to all that is said. The Jewish writer in Egypt who composed the book of Wisdom offered his young students a larger setting for their life, with heart and mind sensitive to God's presence within oneself and open to a God-filled universe. No place is too small, no question too trifling, nor is any place too immense nor any problem too complex, for the influence of God not to be at hand, helping us.
Today's gospel tackles one of the most difficult problems among people who are high-minded, trustful and idealistic: how easily they can be scandalized. Some will say that such people just need to be more streetwise and hardened to life, but Jesus defends the innocence of others and warns against giving scandal. On the other hand, 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 criteria of holiness and their own scale of values, that they fail to see the goodness and the different values in the other. The inability of such pious folk to forgive may turn out to be a still greater scandal to the less devout, less religious person. One's quest for holiness needs to be balanced by faith in God's activity in the lives of others.
Jesus warns against putting an obstacle in the way of someone else's faith, leading someone astray, away from the Lord. The opposite to that is being a support to someone else's faith, being present to others in ways that help them grow in their relationship with the Lord. We can do that in various ways. Those who become faith friends or prayer friends to the children who are to make their 1st holy communion in May support their relationship with the Lord. When the children become aware of people praying for them, it helps them to appreciate all the more their friendship with the Lord and his friendship with them. At the beginning of his gospel, Luke presents Mary and Elizabeth as faith friends or prayer friends. The meeting between them, following on Mary's visit to Elizabeth, helped each of them to deepen their relationship with the Lord. Elizabeth was graced by Mary's coming and Mary in turn was inspired to pray her Magnificat by Elizabeth's welcome of her. We may feel that our own faith is not strong enough to be a support to the faith of others. Like the disciples in the gospel we may find ourselves praying, "Lord, increase our faith." But in response to that prayer, Jesus assures his disciples and all of us that even a little faith can work wonders, even a small mustard-seed size of faith can do marvellous things for the faith of others.