I remember a time when I was working in an elementary school, and I saw a young boy push another boy down the stairs. When I confronted the boy who did the pushing, he said to me, “I did it on accident.” While the behavior was potentially dangerous (the boy who was pushed was not hurt), what was more troubling to me was how quickly this boy was willing to turn his deliberate decision into an “accident”.
But when I think about it, I do the same with God. How often do I seek to convince myself that my sinfulness is just “human nature” or “no big deal?” How often do I fail to recognize the harm my sin can cause for others? Do I see the harm my sin causes me?
The truth of the matter is that sin takes planning. We plot when we sin. That is because we need to know what we are doing is wrong and to fully consent to rejecting God. I know in my life I may want to think I do not plot or plan my sins, but when I am honest with myself I see that I do. And usually, I have a choice about whether or not I put myself in situations where sin is more likely.
It used to be more common that we discussed not only avoiding sin but also the near occasion of sin. It was a recognition that often we wind up sinning because we are in places where our sins are more likely to occur. Like the little boy who would not admit his fault in pushing the other boy down the stairs, when we sin we often do not take responsibility for how we got to the place of sin in the first place.
Sometimes the people we associate with can be a near occasion of sin. What I mean is that we might have friends in our lives, or even acquaintances that tempt us to do what we know is wrong. Sometimes we give in. It is not always easy to be a good person. Sometimes people seek to lead us astray because they do not want to change themselves.
Such is what is happening in today’s first reading and gospel. There is the just person whose example causes others to reflect on their behavior. And because they do not wish to change, they seek to plot against the just person. This is not just some idle thought. They spend time, with others, to plot against the person whose good example makes them uncomfortable. We have a choice in our lives. We can, on the one hand seek to recognize that our example is important, that our witness to the faith matters, even if it might cause others to become unhappy. Or, we can become those persons who get upset with a good example, and seek to plot or undermine those who are good. Which type of person will you be?