How ardently and zealously does the human heart desire awards for great achievements!  The Emmy Award for the movies, the Pulitzer award, Gold medal awards for the best performance in the Olympic games, the award given to the best student of the class “Summa Cum Laude”, and of course the Nobel Peace award, not to mention trophies for the World Series, Stanley Cup and Super Bowl Champions for the year. What stupendous honor paid to the individual or team for splendid performances and victories!   It is part of the human condition to yearn for some award, even if it were something as simple as a “Merit Badge” awarded to a Cub Scout or Girl Scout.

However, there is one award that nobody on earth would desire to win--- “The Millstone Award!”   Actually this award is promised by Jesus Himself.  This award comes not for good conduct but for bad moral conduct leaving ugly traces on others especially on the small and innocent.   Meditate on the words of Jesus:  “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”  (Lk. 17:1-2).  Let us explain this more graphically.

A millstone is the round solid stone or concrete wheel that is turned at a mill to grind wheat or corn into flour.  An ordinary millstone is circular—8 to 10 feet in height and 1 to 2 feet thick.  The weight is on average 1,500 pounds.  There is a hole in the middle that the chain passes through.   The chain is then attached to a person’s neck and they and the stone are cast into the ocean.  That is the millstone award for leading a little one into sin by either direct action or through bad example.   Is the Lord clear enough here?  He does not want us to give scandal or lead others into sin.    “Anyone”  whom we cause to sin, or to whom we give an example of sin (scandal), is a “little one”.     Millstone award!

Father John Hardon, S.J. defines scandal as such:   “Any action or omission, not necessarily sinful in itself, that is likely to induce another to do something morally wrong.  Direct scandal, also called diabolical, has the deliberate intention to induce another to sin. In indirect scandal a person does something that he or she foresees will at least likely lead another to commit sin… Latin “scandalum”, stumbling block. (Taken from Pocket Catholic Dictionary, Father John Hardon, S.J. page  397).

What then are some ways that we can be responsible for scandal and possibly be in line for winning the “Millstone award”?

1.    MY BAD EXAMPLE.   I am publically a Christian but my life style contradicts the faith I profess with my lips by a contrary lifestyle.   The Argentines have a proverb, “Escribir con la mano y borrar con el codo.” Meaning: “To write with your hand, but to erase with your elbow.” Examples are countless, but today more than ever COHABITATION--- meaning, living together before receiving the Sacrament of Marriage.  Children are born and these parents give public bad example—starting with their own children--- scandal, the stumbling block before the eyes of all.  Even though this has become more commonplace, still majority does not determine moral uprightness.  Jesus did not establish a democracy, the majority rules, but said “If you love me keep my commandments.”

2.    MY TOLERANCE (ACCEPTANCE) of sinful behavior around me without correcting it.   The political philosopher Edmund Burke put it bluntly:  “So that evil triumph it is sufficient that good men do nothing.” In the Penitential Rite of the Mass we beg pardon for our sins of thought, word deed and OMISSION.  Omission, like that of tolerance, means very simply not doing what we are supposed to do.  Once again examples abound. Parents that allow their daughters to dress immodestly, thereby provoking and tempting men to look at them lustfully--- millstone award! Parents allowing their son to live with his girlfriend in their home with younger siblings present--- the millstone award!  Parents allowing their “Gay” son to bring his apparent “Lover” home, scandalizing the younger brothers and sisters--- the Millstone award!   True, that to intervene and correct these immoral actions will cause tension, discussion, maybe even wars!  However, better to fight for the truth now then to be cast into the fire that never extinguishes and the worm that dies not.

3.     FAILURE TO CATECHIZE MY CHILDREN.   In recent years--- since Vatican II, actually 50 years ago— catechesis has been weak in many places, but especially the on-going permanent formation of adults.    Church documents, the Catechism of the Catholic Church unanimously agree that the primary educators of children are their own parents.   Therefore, it is a moral duty of parents to procure the serious obligation to work on their own personal permanent formation in the faith, for their own personal enrichment, but also for the benefit and growth of their own children in the faith.   Parents neglecting to Baptize their children at an early stage—within the first few weeks, according to Canon Law--, parents omitting teaching their children to pray, parents putting off the catechetical preparation for the Sacraments of Confession, Holy Communion and Confirmation--- all of the above is tantamount for lining up for that scary award, the Millstone award!

4.    TREATING MY SPIRITUAL LIFE AS IF IT WERE UNIMPORTANT.  One of the best and clearest examples for this would be the attitude that many have towards Holy Mass.  How often do parents flippantly, nonchalantly, or lackadaisically put off Sunday Mass for the last moment or even skip it all together due to false pretexts. Here are a few!   “ Visitors come from out of State, we must entertain them.” Or “Nice day today: time for a family picnic to unite the family.”   Still another, “We have worked hard all week, so we deserve a day off and a long rest!”  Parents concocting these patent lies and neglecting Mass before the eyes of their children are paving the way for their children’s eventual loss of faith, apathy or even bitterness toward God, and immoral life style.  Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, noted that our Sacramental life directly

 influences our moral/ immoral lifestyle.  Without the grace flowing abundantly from the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession, the temptations that come from the world, the flesh and the devil can crush and pulverize the young!

5.     ABUSIVE LANGUAGE.     The purpose of speech is to communicate the truth with love. Parents blurting out vulgar words, telling dirty jokes, allowing for indecent pictures or images in their home, and still more using the Lord’s name in vain--- all of these are stumbling blocks or scandals placed before the feet of their children.   Another possible manner to line up for the Millstone award!

Despite our many failures, we should never give up hope and fall into despair. On the contrary, God’s greatest attribute is His Infinite Mercy.  “God is slow to anger and rich and quick to mercy.”  As soon as our heart begs mercy and forgiveness then God forgives in a heartbeat.   As St. Paul says, “Where sin abounds the mercy of God abounds all the more.”

Therefore, let us recognize our possible scandals that we have given, admit them, confess them to the Lord and to the priest in Confession. Let us make a concerted effort to correct our behavior. Then let us pray fervently, do penance and strive in this very moment and for the rest of our lives to be a shining light of good example at home to our children, in public wherever God sends us, and to the whole world! Mary, Morning Star, Star of the Sea, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us--- you who always pointed to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.