Habakkuk1:2-3,2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14; Luke 17:5-10.
Today friendship has become expensive. If at the moment you are not experiencing the expensive side of friendship, it means that you have been scandalized! The scandal in question is mentioned at the beginning of the gospel of Luke chapter seventeen. In order to avoid being scandalized, the apostles at the beginning of today’s gospel asked Jesus Christ to increase their faith. Their hope is that only a strong faith can enable them withstand the scandal in human relationship. But Jesus Christ advocates for righteousness that comes by faithfully doing that which we ought to do. Righteous faith can uproot any mountain of relationship scandal that exists between friends.
What is this scandal plaguing our relationships today? Truth is no longer the foundation of relationship. Today friendship is more of ‘support’ than ‘honesty’. Fidelity in friendship is geared towards prolonging crisis rather than reconciliation. We are faithful only when we support our friend in quarreling with another who has not any way wronged us but our friend. Our friends demand of us total fidelity to extent that we share the same perceived ‘friend or foe’. Our friends expect us to take sides with them in any misunderstanding involving them with perceived aggressors. We are obliged to side them in any circumstance, even when the person in question has done nothing to us. We are scandalized into joining in every crisis involving our friends. Our involvement is not to make peace, but to take side in order to enable the displays prowess. We are scandalized into a gang up in order to maintain the relationship.
The dilemma mentioned above is at the root of this scandal. It places us between fidelity to God and fidelity to human relationship. Both are connected by Truth, but uncontrolled ‘ego’ in the form of pride, has torn both apart. Thus, it is not easy to opt for God in this regard, especially when the relationship in question is of benefit to us. Some friends are godsend, and we decide to remain faithful at all costs. The intimidating benefits of relationship requires more than courage to overcome. We are intimidated into being scandalized. It is not easy to lose a friend especially in adulthood. For as the saying goes, ‘…friends are like diamonds. Difficult to find and shape, but easy to loose’. The choice is yes or no! It is easier for us to be faithful to friendship at all cost than to be loyal to Truth that ‘appears’ relative rather than objective.
One would think that standing by our friends will make for peace. There cannot be peace in ganging up against another. The first reading from the prophet Habakkuk makes us to understand that ganging up cannot bring peace. The prophet wrote, ‘Outrage and violence, this is all I see, all is contention, and discord flourishes’. The crisis is flourished by our being scandalized. The more people are lured into the scandal, the more the crisis flourishes. Courageous resistance is not easy as the scandalized are often not aware of it. This is why Jesus Christ placed a curse on him by whom scandal comes. (cf: Luke 17:1). The gang up will not resolve the crisis. All it does is to make an innocent one a victim. The scandal will make the scandalized to believe that the innocent victim is at fault and must be expelled. Where is the wisdom of the gang up!
From the second reading, a letter addressed to Timothy, the apostle Paul reminds him to fan into flames the gifts that God gave him. According to Paul, ‘…God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord,’ the gift of God is enough to enable us overcome being scandalized by friendship. The taunts that comes with the rejection of the scandal is felt but overcome by faith. We are branded betrayers when we refuse to give in to being scandalized. The scandal is that we are forced by friendship to cast hatred on someone who did not wrong us. Here the words of the beatitudes come to mind: Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (cf: Matthew 5: 11 – 12). It is not a strong faith as the disciples hoped, but a little faith invested in righteousness that is needed. We sue for peace in order to put an end to the crisis. Righteous faith is enough to enable us sue for peace and bear the taunts afterwards in case of being rejected.
Peace comes with reconciliation. Reconciliation does not require ganging up, rather coming together to address the issues responsible for the crisis. We can only achieve this relying on the power of God that comes through righteous faith in doing that which we ought to, namely, standing by the Truth. We do not need an increase in faith to stand for the Truth. A faith as little as a mustard seed is enough, because it comes from God.
Anthony Ekpunobi, C.M.