It can be hard when you realize that people are watching your example. I am sure there are those moments when parents realize for the first time, and many times thereafter that their children are watching them like hawks, and unfortunately imitating EVERYTHING they do. There are many moments when teachers come to an awareness that they are being watched by their students for the exmaple they set. I know as a priest that the words of my homily are only as effective as the ways they are made real by my lived example. We even have a saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
And if you have little children who you have just recently sent off to school for the first time, know that by now they have told their teacher everything about your home. I never cease to be amazed when I celebrate Masses for small children what they say. For little children there is not much that is out of bounds in recounting what has happened.
I remember a time when a parent spoke about some concern when she learned that in pre-school her son, when asked about what family holiday traditions they celebrated, proudly declared that Kwanza was a family celebration. This would have made sense if Kwanza was in fact a family celebration in this family, but it was not. They were very Catholic. It made for a laugh when the story was relayed after school when this parent came to pick up her son.
As witnesses of the Christian faith, it is clear that we can either witness to something good, or we can lead others astray by our witness. The sections just before this 17th chapter of Luke tell of a clever steward, and the story of the beggar Lazarus outside the door of the wealthy man. When Jesus uses the image of a giant millstone around the neck in deep water, and says that is preferable, it must have rattled the disciples a bit, since they ask for an increase of faith.
Their observation as to the solution to the problem of a sinful bad example is spot on. It is not simply a question of greater will power which helps us to “lead by example”. No, it is the required openness to God that we might fully receive the grace of God which helps us to be faithful to the call to be the persons we were created to be.
So, today, ask God to increase your faith, so that the example of your witness to the faith may lead others to Jesus.