The first passage today is from the Letter to the Romans:
13 Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean. 15 If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; 18 he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats; 21 it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God; happy is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves.
Re-reading this particular passage, I realized that I haven’t been keeping St. Paul’s admonition in mind. Even as I go about my day, I don’t stop to consider whether I am making it easier or harder for others to live the Faith. I think it is easy for us to forget that what we do affects others in profound ways, even when we don’t intend it. Which means that it is essential we always keep others in mind with how we act, even when performing actions we ourselves consider innocuous. After all, we all have our own strengths, and our own weaknesses. Without knowing the weaknesses of others, it behooves us to actively work to build up others, lets we set a stumbling block in front of them.
Since we are on the topic of food, Lent has begun, which brings with it the topic of fasting and abstinence. It is common for many to give something up during Lent, whether an additional type of food or something else. But when making this sacrifice, we must be careful to not lead us to boast. Otherwise we shall be as the Pharisee Jesus warns of us:
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This failing is one that I suspect I am especially prone to. When we avoid most serious sins, we are too often inclined to think better of ourselves than we should. All too easily we forget that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Further, it is only with God’s strength, and not our own, that we can resist sin and temptation.
17 “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.” 18 For it is not the man who commends himself that is accepted, but the man whom the Lord commends.
(2 Corinthians 10:17-18)