BROTHERS AND SISTERS, salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers. The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat, for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own master that they stand or fall. And they will stand, for God is able to make them stand.
On the last Sunday before the start of Great Lent we hear the Gospel lesson about forgiveness and the Epistle reading on not judging. And Saint Paul focuses on judging based on what others eat. Since part of our Lenten journey is dietary, it makes sense to emphasize that what others eat or do not eat during Lent is irrelevant to us. The point is to know the expectations of the Great Lent and follow them yourself, as best as you can, not how well others do it. How well we keep the Lent, both physically and spiritually, is only up to God to judge. And we believe that He takes into account every honest effort we put in.
By the way, Saint Paul is not taking a jab at today's vegans by saying that "the weak eat only vegetables." The irony is that we, voluntarily, become the weak ones during Lent by making our diet, basically, vegetable-only. We do this because God's strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). We give up, sacrifice, part of our diet in order to dedicate more of our time to doing God's work. Lent is that time of year when we intentionally rely on God more than on our stomachs, to prove to ourselves that it is possible to do so. Therefore, it is possible to continue this reliance in faith upon God the rest of the year also.
It is before our own Master we stand or fall. And "God is able to make [us] stand" because we are not afraid to put our trust in Him by limiting our diet.
For last year's reflections, click here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest