Keep our eyes on Jesus
‘Distracted’ asked, “How do you not get scandalized by things that are happening around you and just concentrate on strengthening your spiritual life?” I can’t remember the saint who said it, but there is a quote that has always stuck with me about being scandalized by others. It says something to the effect of, “if we are truly living humility, we will never be scandalized by the actions of others”. Having a humble view of myself means that I recognize my own weaknesses and that I am capable of doing great acts of evil at any time. I am not surprised, then, when others show their weaknesses in extraordinary ways. It is part of our human condition that we have a strong desire (concupiscence) toward sin.
In addition, it helps to regularly hear Gospel passages regarding the actions of others so that the Word of God becomes engrained in us. For example, Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (v. 3). While our Lord makes an exaggerated statement, the point is made: we have a lot of things to work on in our own moral and spiritual lives before we start pointing out the sins of others. This is a point for us to ponder often.
Also, a relevant and powerful quote from St. Francis de Sales who saw a fair share of scandals in his life. He said, "While those who give scandal are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder [i.e., destroying other people's faith in God by their terrible example], those who take scandal-who allow scandals to destroy their faith-are guilty of spiritual suicide”.
In the overall question of not getting distracted in the spiritual life, I think about the scene where Peter walks on water in Matthew 14. “Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”
One of the main points from this scene is to always keep our focus on Christ. When Peter came out of the boat (which is commonly used in Scripture and art as a symbol of the Church), his eyes were on Christ. He was walking on water! As long as we keep our eyes on Christ, we will do great things! Peter believed in Jesus and in his power, and he wasn’t afraid to come out of the boat in the midst of a storm. But, when he takes his focus off of Christ and pays more attention to the storm around him, that’s when he begins to sink. He became filled with fear which is the opposite of faith. His faith kept him strong; his fear brought him weakness.
Whatever storms we have in our own lives, we need to stay focused on Christ. Especially if our storms are because of the sins of others, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. He’s the only one who can truly help us through the storm. It’s not that we ignore the serious sins of others, but we approach them with faith and humility. This will more likely lead to charity and compassion, and ultimately, forgiveness. This is what it means to stay focused on Christ in the midst of storms in our lives, especially the storms of scandal.