Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
(I Corinthians 8:1b-7.11-13; Luke 6: 27-38)
St. Paul does not use the word scandal in today’s first reading, but he talks about it. When one says or does something to cause another to sin, that person is giving scandal. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to avoid scandal by not taking food that has been offered to pagan gods. Although the gods do not exist, he knows that some believe that food is contaminated when offered to them. These people will be scandalized by seeing another Christian eat it and may eat it themselves. They will sin because their scrupulous consciences will tell them that it is wrong to eat offerings to god.
Scandal is a difficult torrent to maneuver around. People can be scrupulous about the slightest thing. Some think drinking coffee at Starbucks, whose founder has contributed to Planned Parenthood, is sinful. Some moralists have tried to rationalize scandal by distinguishing between “scandal given” and “scandal taken.” The former is doing something truly wrong, for example, attending an “all-girl revue” at a men’s club. The latter is considered a problem of scrupulosity on the part of the viewer. But this distinction conflicts with what Paul is saying.
We should heed Paul’s advice and not say or do something that will be taken as sinful among the people present. If scrupulosity is the problem, we might explain how what we are doing is not sinful. What is essential is that we follow Jesus’ gospel command to love everyone by doing what is good. He has loved us by sacrificing everything for us. We can sacrifice something for the sake of our sisters and brothers in him.