Grace to you!
We continue our reflections based on 1 Corinthians.
Apologies for my inability to post our reflections for the past three days. The news of the death of a friend and a classmate, a dedicated priest with great examples of pastoral fervor, affected me emotionally. May the gentle soul of Fr. Jude Egbom rest in peace. Amen.
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.
Some Christians who believed that idols were mere work of human hands and empty images, would eat those food. For them, sacrificing food to idols was an empty ritual since the idols have no life, mere façade.
On the other hand, some believers saw the eating of food sacrificed to idols by some of the brethren as sinful and therefore, a cause of scandal. For them, by eating food sacrificed to idols, the believers were participating in idol worship. Hence, Paul writes to address this specific problem. This story will resonate with many who live side-by-side those of tribal religions.
Saint Paul’s pastoral recommendation was that 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 do not have any effect to 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, it is better for one to 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 the Christ’s way not to be a stumbling block to holiness, to what is good, true 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 enjoying it.
Scandal, from Greek σκανδαλίσῃ(skandalisē) means “to cause… to falter or fall”. Literally, it means 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 one. 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 the sense used above does not occur when we are doing what is good and holy. Rather, scandal occurs when we are doing something sinful or that leads to sin. It could also occur when we are not charitable in saying or doing things that may not be sinful, but could be done with better love. It could also happen 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 (e.g. the current Church scandal), or culture of injustice.
In all, we learn that for the believer, we do not live our lives as if it’s all about us and what is only in our interest. As Saint Paul says, “We live for the Lord.” (Rm 14: 8). We live for one another also.
Praying that in all we say, do or not do, we live for the Lord and for charity. 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]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.