BROTHERS AND SISTERS, food will not bring us close to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge the weak brother for whom Christ died is destroyed. But when you thus sin against brothers, and wound 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, so that I may not cause my brother to fall. Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
Reading this Epistle together with the Gospel lesson about the Last Judgment, the Church is clearly hinting at something here.
The Gospel talks about our salvation being dependent on how we treat others. Because how we treat others is exactly how we treat God. Because every single human being, from the time of our conception, is an image of God. Every single human being, from the time of conception, has a divine mark on them, and, therefore, we are, in a way, predestined to the life with God and in God. It is ours to lose.
What Saint Paul talks in the above reading is that our actions can cause temptation to others. We don't even have to mistreat them to be accused of neglect of our brothers and sisters. Saint Paul gives an example of eating meat in a marketplace. In those days, meat was not as ubiquitous as it is today. Poor people especially could not afford meat. They would usually have meat during festivals, when meat was first sacrificed to the pagan gods and given out to people.
Now, in Christ all things are clean, but when people willingly and voluntarily accepted and consumed meat sacrificed to the idols, they participated in idolatry. Saint Paul warns that even if some Christians ate meat at a festival because they wanted meat, not because they believed in an idol, if other Christians saw them, those whose conscious was weaker, who did not understand what was going on, they would be tempted. And with this temptation they could've fallen into idolatry.
Tempting others is a sin. And any sin against another person is a sin against Christ. Therefore, if food or other things we do, might cause our brothers and sisters to fall into a temptation and into sin, then we must stop. Their fall will be on our conscience and we will answer before the Great Judge for any temptation we have caused.
For last year's reflection, click here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest