Note that our Lord is not saying that ‘these little ones’ sin by being the victims of someone else’s malice. I think he is saying that there is a harder judgment and punishment awaiting those who so maim others that they become enmeshed in sin and self-destructive behaviours in turn. I am thinking of a man who comes to our church. He’s a chronic alcoholic and homeless, his brain already damaged by years of alcohol abuse yet he is always respectful in church though he can be noisy. After one of my ‘ferverinos’ at daily Mass he turned to the congregation and told them “Now go and sort your own selves out”. He has prayed aloud beautifully at times and while we do not give him Holy Communion he comes up and we give him a blessing while he taps his breast. He once said that he would like to have been a priest. I am told that he comes from a large family, all alcoholics. My point is that having been reared in such an environment what chance had he to live a healthy, normal life? What chance had he to become a priest? Whose sin is at the root of this man’s state?
The consequences of our sins ripple out like the wavelets created by a stone tossed into a pond. We are all fallen and so prone to sin yet we must accept the consequences of our sins whether we realise those consequences or not. Recently I have started praying for all those affected by my sinfulness whether hurt, or led astray, or given bad example by me. We need gentle, loving, fraternal correction. We need others to watch over us, not in judgment and still less in condemnation, but in caring solicitude so that we can progress on the path to Heaven. The closer we are to fulfilling the Lord’s will the more we will have faith that moves mountains and heals the broken.