Grace to you!
We read from 1 Cor 8:1-13, Saint Paul’s response to one of the pastoral challenges in the early Church of Corinth. Many in the community were worshippers of the Roman goddess Venus. So, from time to time, foods offered to Venus, especially at festive times, were presented for meals and socialization.
It happened that some Christians who believed idols were mere work of human hands and empty images would eat the food. For them, sacrificing food to idols was an empty ritual since the idols have no real life. They are mere façades.
On the other hand, some other members of the early Church of Corinth saw the eating of food sacrificed to idols by some of the brethren as sinful. For them, it was a cause of scandal. They argued that by eating food sacrificed to idols, the believers participate in idol worship. Hence, Saint Paul writes to address this specific problem. This story will resonate with many who live side-by-side with those of tribal religions.
Saint Paul’s pastoral recommendation was this. Though it is the right knowledge to insist that there is only one true God—idols are not the real God—, and that food offered to idols does not affect the believer if they eat it, believers should be careful not to cause scandal. He says that because some believers may not have the same solid knowledge and understanding that idols are not real, eating food sacrificed to idols could cause their weak faith to sin. In that case, one should avoid eating such food. Nothing is worth causing another person to sin. “Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall” (1 Cor 8:12-13).
One sees in this advice of Saint Paul an emphasis that deserves keen attention. The believer’s primary goal is to glorify the Lord in all we do. It is also to inspire others to do the same. It is to act in the spirit of charity. In all we say, do or not do; it is Christ's way not to be a stumbling block to holiness, to what is good, true, just, and beautiful. Even if something is good for me, if it would lead someone else to sin, it is more Christlike to hold back from doing it.
The word scandal, from Greek σκανδαλίσῃ (skandalisē), means “to cause… to falter or fall". Its literal meaning is "to be a stumbling block on the way of someone." Though some stumbling blocks could be a good thing, just like when we have a bump in the road to stop us from speeding where it is dangerous to pedestrians, the scandal that Saint Paul talks about here is the sinful kind. Saint Thomas Aquinas describes it as “something less rightly done or said, that causes another's spiritual downfall” (ST, 11-11, 43.1).
Thus, scandal in a sense used above does not occur when doing what is just, good and holy. Instead, scandal occurs when we are doing something sinful, or that leads to sin. It could also happen when we are not charitable in saying or doing things that may not be sinful but could be done with a better love. It could also occur when we fail to act to promote what is good or when we are indifferent to what is evil, such as abuse of minors and the vulnerable or culture of injustice.
We learn that we do not live our lives as if it's all about us and our interests alone. As Saint Paul says, "We live for the Lord." (Rm 14: 8). We live for one another, also.
I am praying that we live for the Lord and for charity in all we say, do or not do. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Week 23 Ordinary Time: 1 Cor 8:1-7, 11-13; Lk 6:27-38]
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Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.