Keep Raising The Bar
Thirty-Second Week of Year II Monday November 7, 2016
(Begin reading Titus)
In the Responsorial Psalm we claim the gift of wisdom: “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face” (Psalm 24).
In Titus 1: 1-9 Paul is speaking out of wisdom as he holds up the “last end” to us— “the hope of that eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised in endless ages past.” Thomas Aquinas defined wisdom as the “habit of seeing everything in the light of our last end.” Paul associates this wisdom with “knowledge of the truth” and God’s word “revealed through the proclamation with which I have been entrusted.” For Paul and for us, it is faithful stewardship to maintain, share and pass on the truth entrusted to us.
In every town Titus should “appoint elders” (“presbyters,” the Greek from which our word “priest” comes) to exercise a special stewardship over the communities that accept the faith.
This stewardship consists, not only in teaching “the authentic message” of God’s word, but also in bearing witness to it by lifestyle. They should above all be welcoming; open to everything that is good; and constantly focused on the “end,” the goal of their mission. They should insist on the real, bedrock doctrine of the Church without yielding to pressure from left, right, or above, and correct any who distort it.
In Luke 17: 1-6 Jesus recognizes that all of us will sometimes “scandalize” each other. A “scandal” is anything that causes us to lower our ideals. Usually because it does not shock us! When those we perceive as representative of Christian life act in a way that is just a little bit less than what we had thought the Gospel calls for, that can cause us to lower our ideals almost unconsciously.
There is an ingrained tendency to interpret the Gospel in the light of common practice instead of reforming practice in the light of the Gospel. Practice is more persuasive than theory. We don’t really believe what we hear the Church saying; we believe what we see the Church doing. And all of us are “the Church” for one another.
So we need to keep calling each other to the authentic, highest ideals of Jesus Christ. We need to say something to anyone whose words or actions are lowering the bar. This is to exercise stewardship.
But we need to do this without rejecting those who keep failing, even if they fall “seven times a day.” The first ideal we need to model is the love that Jesus commanded: “Love one
another as I have loved you.”
We should be on guard against being scandalized ourselves. Above all, it is stupid to leave the Church because others don’t measure up. That is to turn away from the light because others are casting a shadow.