We are told not to consume food offered to other gods but doesn’t the same apply toavelling in vehicles and living in homes blessed in the protection of gods of other religions. Can doing any of this be considered a sin?
With the increased migration happening all around the world, we have no option but to live in an increasingly multi-cultural and multi-religious scenario. And your question becomes all the more relevant in such a context. I shall respond to your question considering the context in which St. Paul makes such a recommendation, the gospel message and the teaching of the Church in this regard.
St. Paul urged Christians in Corinth to avoid eating food offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8), not because he believed in idols or for the sake of the food itself. No food is, in principle, unclean. Jesus made it clear when he said, ‘not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth…’ (Matthew 15:11). St. Paul also acknowledged that in principle no food is a source of moral contamination (Romans 14:14, 20). Yet, he recommended that eating food sacrificed to idols should be avoided respecting the consciences of less informed Christians (Romans 14:21). Because, there were new Christians who would have believed that idols were real if they saw their more mature brethren eating foods from pagan sacrifices. Therefore, St. Paul stated, ‘if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble’ (I Corinthians 8:13). Here, St. Paul was urging the members of his community to take a communitarian rather than an individualistic view of their Christ-given freedom. He wanted to remind them that many of the decisions that they thought pertained only to their private relationship with God had, in fact, social consequences.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal as ‘an attitude or behaviour which leads another to do evil … Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalised’ (CCC 2284 – 2285). Moreover, Jesus emphatically stated, ‘whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea’ (Matthew 18: 6).
The natural moral law urges us in doing good and avoiding evil. As a result, each individual has to do good himself but also has to avoid his good actions being an occasion or providing a means for other to do evil.
To conclude, first of all, the above discussion makes it clear that the food, the means of transportation or the homes in themselves are good. As Catholics we pray and bless before we eat, travel or move into a new home, acknowledging Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Saviour of all. Secondly, in our choices to do even good we must respect and regard those who are weak in faith and do not cause scandal. Finally, the basic moral law is that we must seek and discern to do good and avoid evil in everything. One commits sin when he/she consciously goes against any of the above. Remember, we have no scruple in inhaling the air which we know is clearly filled with the incense from the altars of other gods.
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