St. Augustine once said in a sermon: “The day I became a bishop, a burden was laid on my shoulders for which it will be no easy task to render an account.”
On another occasion, he said, “I must distinguish carefully between two aspects of the role the Lord has given me, a role that demands rigorous accountability, a role based on the Lord's greatness rather than on my own merit. The first aspect is that I am a Christian; the second, that I am a leader…. The fact that I am a Christian is to my own advantage, but I am a leader for your advantage.”
It is clear Augustine approached his vocation with great humility and a reverent fear. Those who exercise authority in the Church and those entrusted with handing on the faith parents and clergy especially, but catechists and teachers as well would do well to imitate the saint's example. That we need to take our vocations and tasks seriously is highlighted by what our Lord says in today's Gospel: “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.”
It is frustrating and heartbreaking to hear stories about any priest who openly dissents from Church teachings in the pulpit. What damage it does to the faithful when he fails to preach the fullness of truth or when he fails to challenge his flock to grow in holiness. Worse still if he is not striving to do so himself. In light of what our Lord says, if a priest, called to be a shepherd leading souls to heaven, should neglect that duty, it is clearly no small thing.
It is difficult and frustrating to try to instill in young children making their first Communion the importance of the sacraments and Mass when parents are not bringing them to church regularly. Too often, it seems, sports is placed ahead of formation in the faith. We can help our children to be great athletes, but of greater importance is helping them to be great saints. They can learn about Christ in the classroom, but in the liturgy they can learn and be formed by Christ Himself. In light of what our Lord says, if parents, the first and most important teachers of their children, neglect their children's spiritual formation, it is no small thing.
Jesus' words should instill in us a sense of reverent fear. It is not as if He wants to terrify us into doing our duties well. It is simply that God created us so that He could pour out His blessing upon us. He has promised us a heavenly inheritance. As parents, pastors, and teachers we would do our children and congregations, not to mention ourselves, a great disservice if we neglect to prepare children for entering into that inheritance.
If we learn nothing else from all that is said in today's Gospel, it should simply be that becoming a saint is a serious business.
Fr. Grankauskas is parochial vicar at St. Mary of Sorrows Parish in Fairfax, Virginia.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)