Last Sunday we heard the readings from 1 Corinthians 8, concerning eating meat, and Matthew 25, concerning the Last Judgment. They may seem disjointed in looking at them on the surface, but they are actually very connected to each other.
Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Only take care, lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:8-9
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (to indulge the flesh, NIV), but through love be servants of one another (serve one another humbly in love). Galatians 5:13
The above readings from Corinthians and Galatians help us to put fasting in a proper perspective. The things we fast from during lent are not bad things. Whether they are certain foods, certain luxuries, certain videos, apps, TVs, or computers. St Paul tells us not to allow our use of these things to become a stumbling block to others. The verse from Galatians tells us not to use our freedom as an opportunity to indulge the flesh but, through humble love, to be servants of one another. As we are about to enter into the Great Fast, we address this simple question: Do we eat to live, or do we live to eat? This is a time for the family to have a discussion to help us all better understand where we have fallen short in our use of the gifts we have been given. This idea is presented very clearly in the following hymn sung at Matins from this past Sunday:
DANIEL THE PROPHET, AND GREATLY BELOVED MAN, WHEN HE SAW THE POWER OF GOD, CRIED OUT: THE COURT SAT IN JUDGEMENT AND THE BOOKS WERE OPENED! CONSIDER WELL, MY SOUL: DO YOU FAST? THEN DO NOT DESPISE YOUR NEIGHBOR! DO YOU ABSTAIN FROM FOOD? THEN DO NOT CONDEMN YOUR BROTHER, LEST YOU BE SENT TO BURN AS WAX IN THE FIRE. BUT MAY CHRIST LEAD YOU WITHOUT STUMBLING INTO HIS KINGDOM! (Praises Verse, Sunday of Last Judgment, Tone 8)
When we read the gospel from Matthew 25 on the Last Judgment, we find that we will not be asked how often we went to church, how correctly we fasted and followed the rules, or whether we were “Orthodox” Christians. The question will be: did we see Christ suffering in the needs of those who are poor, hungry, naked, in prison, or alone having no one to visit them? Did we actively love those persons the Lord brought into our lives? Did we use what the Lord gave us for the well-being of others? Or were our lives only about living to eat? Our inability or refusal to see Christ suffering in the needs of others will be the rule we are judged by.
I encourage you, as we are about to enter the Great Fast, that by the grace of God, make every effort as a family to be active in your love towards one another. May your acts of self-denial through fasting bring you into a greater awareness of the brother or sister God brings into your midst. Receive them with kindness and love. May we repent of our failure to love and seek to “bear each other’s burdens, fulfilling the law of Christ.”
Forgive me a sinner,
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,