In the Gospel reading at Mass for the weekend of Sept 25th and 26th, Jesus issues this warning: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
This means that those who cause others to be separated from the Lord are in a heap o’ trouble. I don’t know about you, but I get tired after treading water for only a few minutes. Trying to stay afloat with a two-ton millstone around my neck would be, shall we say, rather challenging.
In this present day and age, our popular culture is working overtime to draw folks away from God. The institutions that have the most influence on people—the news media, the public education system, and the entertainment industry—have become downright hostile towards religious faith. However, we shouldn’t be surprised since the majority of people who run these institutions are thoroughly secular, so why should they want to promote traditional Judeo-Christian values when they don’t hold those values themselves?
The real danger—and the people to whom I think Jesus was referring—are those who claim to have religious faith and yet push people away from the Lord and cause them to sin. You’d be surprised at the number of people who say they believe in God, but who are convinced that they have the authority to decide for themselves what’s right and what’s wrong.
How about the Bible? Nah, too old, too weird. I’ll make up my own rules.
Church Tradition? Forget that. Haven’t you heard? All tradition is bad.
The Teaching Magisterium of the bishops? Are you kidding? A bunch of celibate old men? What do they know about real life?
The Pope? Well, he seems like a cool guy—at least when he’s promoting the things I like. But when he starts talking about stuff I don’t like, I tune him out.
And so we have a multitude of people who have embraced what Pope Benedict called the “dictatorship of relativism.” They believe there are no firm truths or doctrines; everything is relative. It all depends on the situation. Most of all, it all depends on what you feel.
Have you ever heard someone say, “If it feels right for you, then it’s right”? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But what if you’re Jeffrey Dahlmer? What if you’re that jerk who shot up the black church in South Carolina this year? They were doing what they felt was right. Does anyone really want to argue that if it felt right for them, then it really was right?
People who embrace relativism actually think the following statement is correct: “It is absolutely true that there are no absolute truths.” Wait, what? That statement completely contradicts itself.
Many modern secular people would be surprised to find that there really are absolute truths in our world. And not just in the scientific realm, but also regarding morality and societal issues.
We know there are absolute truths because the person who called Himself “the Way and the Truth and the Life” told us so. And in this week’s Gospel reading, He tells us that if we lead people astray—for example, by promoting the idea that everyone should make up their own personal definition of right and wrong—then we are in big, big, BIG trouble. I used a couple extra “bigs” there because those millstones ain’t small. If the Lord ties one around our neck and then tosses us over the side of a boat, well, at that point it really won’t matter if we remembered to bring our snorkel.
The true Truth of Jesus can be found in those “old fashioned” things: the Bible, Church Tradition, the teachings of the Bishops and Popes.
Embracing the truths taught by Jesus surely will be a whole lot more comfortable than getting fitted with a size 17 millstone.