Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
1 Cor 10:31-11:1
Brothers and sisters,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or
the church of God,
just as I try to please everyone in every way,
not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
I would like to reflect on today's second reading because I think it can easily be misinterpreted. I used to live by the same basic principle, try not to offend anyone. On the surface this sounds like a perfect way to live your life, but I've found out that it is impossible to accomplish. No matter what we do, every action we take will be offensive to someone. As I sit on the toilet this morning, I'm sure that I've offended someone because I used too much toilet paper. This is a silly example, but in a very real way it is true. When we get too caught up in not offending anyone, it will often cause us to sin. How so? I think a perfect example is my blog you are reading now. I've had several people come on my blog and post very angry comments on my site. Should I change my language so that those readers are happy? Absolutely not. If I start writing to those folks, I'll abandon some of my other readers and in the process not be true to myself. If we see someone do wrong, should we ignore it so as not to offend them with confrontation? That's not what Jesus taught us. Now that I'm on the topic of Jesus, did he not offend many? How many people hated Jesus? Did he ever change the way he lovingly proclaimed the gospel? NO! Love the sinner, hate the sin. That is how we must live. Does this mean that St. Paul, a great convert and evangelizer, is wrong when he writes to Corinthians? No, but we must read his words carefully.
We must not conclude that we are to accept the actions of all others and continue our lives accepting each individual as they are. As I said earlier, St. Paul was a great evangelizer. He spent much of his adult life on a mission to convert people to Christianity. His words are actually a great guide on how we too can evangelize people. Everything we do should be for the glory of God. All our actions should glorify him. Before we eat, we should always say a prayer of thanksgiving. Before we sleep we should say a prayer of contrition and thanksgiving. By living a life that glorifies God, we become a great example for others. When he says avoid giving offense to others including those who are not like you, he is telling us to be sensitive to their needs. This is a good thing. When we encounter people, we should try to "put ourself in their shoes" and in this way we can touch their hearts. If we beat a bible over someone's head, we will only push them away from Christ. If we talk with them and share a meal with them and listen to them and their needs we can gain their trust and we might be able to share with them the good news of God. St. Paul tells us to be humble and to do good works not for the benefit of our own name, but for the benefit of others. The goal of evangelizing is helping others to become saved, not to make ourselves feel better (although that is often the result of doing good deeds).
We can not please everyone. Jesus did not please everyone. He was humble and he spoke the truth. He did not compromise the truth for the sake of those who did not want to accept the truth, but even as he died on the cross he forgave them for "they knew not what they were doing." Not everyone wanted to accept his teaching, but his words and actions were fully intended to benefit us, to save us. Be sensitive to all you encounter. Do not abandon your faith in the process, but be compassionate and loving to all you encounter. In this way, you can evangelize. By your good actions you can influence people and change lives. You may never know the effect you have on a person, but every action we take can and will be noticed. Love God, Love your neighbor and you will move hearts. God bless!