As a catholic, can I take part in a puja and eat the prasad offered? – 1 Corinthians 10:14-22

As a catholic, can i take part in a puja and eat the prasad offered? Saturday, 23rd week in ordinary time – 1 Corinthians 10:14-22

When you compare chapter 8 and chapter 10 of St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians you might wrongly arrive at the conclusion that Paul is contradicting himself. Paul clearly states that that he does not recognize the power of any idol; in his words, “no idol in the world exists and there is no God but one.” (8:4) What Paul is simply stating is that no idol has any power before the worship of the one true God. Hence in this context he says, eating food offered to idols (so called gods – verse5) makes no difference. “Food will not bring us close to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat and not better off if we do (8:8) Yet he is emphatic that most Christians may not have the ability to grasp this understanding. Remember, Paul is speaking to the Corinthians, many of who were recent converts from paganism. Hence, so as to not cause scandal and cause other Christians to stumble and think its ok to eat food offered to idols, Paul says it is best not to eat such food.

Today’s text will take this explanation one step ahead. Paul begins in 10: 13 to explain that all of us are tested. We may think our testing is unique and special but temptation is a common human experience. Yet each one is tested according to their spiritual growth and God won’t let you be tested beyond your ability of endurance; if so, Satan would destroy us the minute God would allow us to be tested beyond our capability of endurance. To help us deal with these earthly temptations, God provides a way of escape when faced with such temptations. He provides the way; he does not force us to use the way! Therefore, we have the choice to say no to sin and take the way of escape that God gives us. To be tempted is not sin, but to surrender to temptation is sin.

In this context Paul once again goes back to what he began to teach in chapter 8 and begins with the words, “therefore…”(verse 14). Paul is now talking of how God provides a way for us to resist the temptation to cause scandal to others by eating meat offered to idols.

Clearly, Paul does prohibit the consumption of meat that is sold in the market that may even be offered to idols or eat food from the market that may have had a prayer of thanksgiving said before the food was cooked or sold (10:25). Neither is a Christian prohibited from eating food in the home of an unbeliever (person of another faith). In fact, Paul says in 10:27, if you are “disposed” to go to such a home “eat what is set before you without raising any questions on the grounds of conscience.”(10:27). BUT If you go to a non-believers house, and you are told (or you are aware) that what is set before you or given to you is offered in sacrifice to the idols then you are not to eat it. In short if you participate in a religious ceremony and are offered the same food offered to the idol at the ceremony, you are not to eat that food. (10:28).But if you simply go to the home of a non-believer, you may eat what is set before you. Note there are two elements here that are mandatory; I take part in the religious ceremony and I am offered the same sacrificial food offered in that ceremony, then I am not to consume it.

Let us now come to the text of today which will also throw up another set of challenges and nuances. Paul in 10:14 asks the Christians of Corinth and us to ‘flee from the worship of idols.’ Remember he says, we may be tested but God gives us a way out and that choice to take that way out or not determines if we commit sin or not. Paul is thus saying, ‘do not put yourself in a sin situation where you may have to participate in the worship of idols.’ Assume that you are invited to an office puja or a friend’s place where the host clearly intends to have a religious ceremony in which an idol is worshipped; it is your duty to decline politely and respectfully lest you find your self asked to also worship the idol and in order not to ‘offend’ your host, you bring sin upon yourself.

Paul says that there may be some who think, ‘what’s wrong with participating in a puja; after all, I don’t believe in what I am doing. I have a modern world view and am not narrow minded.’ This is not a question of your mind or your world view but a clear religious teaching. Remember the principle that Paul gave us; by your actions you cause scandal to the community and lead others to sin!

But before we go on to the next point let us place this text in context lest we lose the plot. Paul is speaking to the Christians about what goes on in the pagan temples in CORINTH. Please do not apply this teaching with a brush to all religions as each religion may understand idol worship differently. (Having said that I am reiterating what Paul said, “ no idol worship,”) Paul is stating that what goes on in PAGAN TEMPLES may not be as innocent as it may seem; as MAY be the case in other religious beliefs too.

Paul asks them to consider this; Just as participating in the one bread and the one cup at the Lord’s table signifies a unity of understanding of what and who is being received and what and who we become as a consequence of what we receive; in the same way, when one eats from the table, the food offered to an idol do you not become one in the faith of that belief system and of that god?

Just as the Christian practice of communion speaks of unity and fellowship with Jesus, so these pagan banquets in Corinth, given in the honour of idols, spoke of unity with demons who took advantage of misdirected worship. To eat at a pagan temple banquet was to have fellowship at the altar of idols. So eating this food offered to idols is not as innocent as it may seem.

Paul is not saying that the idols of the Corinthians were demons. He is saying that demonic spirits take advantage of idol worship to deceive and enslave people.Without knowing it, idol worshippers are glorifying demons in their sacrifice. He is stating that demons take advantage of man’s ignorant and self-serving worship. If you must eat, eat and drink the body of Christ which alone has the power to nourish you.

There may be some who will still say that “as long as we participate in the Lord’s Table, we are safe in Him.” Paul answers that they disgrace the Lord’s table when they fellowship with idols. Paul is clear, only he, the true God has the right to be worshipped and is offended when we worship other gods,”

Lest we forget, “ I AM the Lord YOUR God, you will have no other gods before me.

Finally on a pastoral note, so as to not be confused.
1. Avoid vigorously any situation where in you might find yourself being asked to worship an idol especially if your non participation may ‘hurt your host.’
2. Idol worship is a BIG NO-NO for Christians.
3. If you know that some food is ‘blessed’ on the occasion of a religious ceremony and given to you and you have not participated in the religious ceremony, you MAY consume that food but it is best avoided and could be politely declined or may be respectfully given to someone else of the same faith as the person who has offered you that food.
4. You cannot participate in a religious ceremony where any other God is worshipped. If you are simply present because of a matter of compulsion or co-incidence and you have ‘participated’ either consciously or unconsciously in that religious rite, then you must not consume that food . If you do YOU CANNOT PARTAKE OF THE TABLE OF THE LORD before you make your confession.

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7 thoughts on “As a catholic, can I take part in a puja and eat the prasad offered? – 1 Corinthians 10:14-22”

  • Very well written and answered to the point. Majority of the Catholics are unaware of this and those aware conveniently ignore the truth for fear of being stigmatized or worse still offending another.

  • if i understand paul, he came from the jewish traditions that were and still are very finnicky about their food rules. i do not agree that participating in a food fest at a non-christian home, knowing that the food was a part of an offering to their gods, is a sin. i would be participating in the food fest and not interested if it was blessed or not. similarly if i was invited to a religious ceremony, i would not participate in the ceremony but be an observer or somebody is just present because i respects others and their beliefs, without infringing or weakening my own beliefs. i am STRONG IN MY CONVICTIONS, though weak at times in my deeds…..yes a sinner. EVERYBODY IS FREE TO HAVE THEIR OWN BELIEFS OR LACK OF BELIEFS. NO ONE BELIEF IS SUPERIOR TO THE OTHERS AS THEY ARE ALL PATHS WITH DIFFERENT NAMES AND DIFFERNT SIGN POSTS….YET LEADING TO THE SAME CREATOR. who has guaranteed that christians will ALL GO TO HEAVEN??? I THINK MAHATMA GANDHI COULD PUT A LOT OF CHRISTIANS TO SHAME WITH THE MORALS HE FOLLOWED. i believe in following christ by my actions/morals rather than following the church and its dogmas. NOT EVERYTIHNG IN THE BIBLE IS TRUE!

    • Hi John, you’re right when you say that every one is free to have their own beliefs especially in the christian context as we are given free will.
      In the secular worldview, yes all religions are simply different flavors of the same dish. What you’re describing is an age old philosophical conundrum of what makes a Christian. Does simple verbal assertion make you a Christian or do your actions truly reflect your spiritual standing? (Matt 25:40-46)
      Nietzsche said “There was only one true Christian and he died on the cross”
      The beauty of the bible is its hyperlinks and its contradictions. On one hand we’re told to give selflessly & love others abundantly and on the other hand we’re told that if we don’t hate ourselves & family we can’t be with the Lord. (Luke 14:26). And that’s life, isn’t it? Strewn with contradictions!
      The mistake I’ve made and alot of other christians make is that they work on the premise that the biblical authors are claiming that the bible is a book of fact, it is not. It is a library of books based on FAITH. Now just because something is not real does not mean that it is not True. This is an important distinction to make from a lot of other religious texts.

      To sum it up and make my point, no one’s saying go to war with the world over every aspect that is not commensurate with the bible / teachings of our spiritual guides BUT instead seek to balance out ones own values keeping Christ (the ultimate logos) at the centre and not succumb to superficial pacifism and worse, treat it like a virtue. Especially when doctrines like that are hollow at best and devoid of any real and meaningful substance.

      I would recommend reading The Book that Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi to understand the profound and significant difference the bible has made to India despite it’s myriad of existing religions.

      Peace and love – LD

    • Thank you Fr. Warner, for painstakingly explaining 1Cor 10. It’s a very important matter and very relevant today. After Pope Francis’ Panchmama episode and his recent actions in Canada with the aboriginals, we are very confused indeed. Why would Pope Francis do this? Wish you could throw light on this, he must be having strong reasons for scandalising Catholics worldwide. Similar incidents have taken place in Goa during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, with the leaders being priests and nuns. So your perfect dissection of the mind of St. Paul is extremely helpful and comforting.
      May you continue to proclaim the faith as effectively as you do. You’re in my intercession.

  • I LOVE the reply Mr. Lad has posted herein and ended with PEACE & LOVE.

    Personally, if I have a choice, I would stick to one simple TRUTH : ” Idols are not Gods. ”

    And as long as they are not Demons, whoever is close to me ( but has no influence on my unshakeable FAITH in MY LORD AND GOD ” JESUS, ” ) but worships a stone, and invites me to participate in some prayerful belief of his, I would be respectful of such an invitation by my Non Christian Brother – politely avoid if possible, but if not, then participate with the single mindedness of My God IS and WILL ALWAYS BE ” THE ONLY GOD “..

    Fr. Warner, this is a topic that the more its discussed, the more one can get drawn into meaninglessness. I feel that even if all of us are given point wise the dos and don’ts it will still not be thoroughly understood by some of us can better understand than others..


    Thankyou Fr. Warner for your best efforts in explaining to us, despite the intricacies of this subject.. 🙏🙏

    • Thank you Fr. Warner for explaining one of the most controversial topics. As Christians are problem is we are more concerned about hurting the sentiments of another person who is offering us food given to an idol rather than knowing that participating in the idol worship & consuming that food is sin, as per the first commandment.
      If we as Christians dare to offer prohibited food of another man’s faith saying it is blessed food, do you think he wud consume it?? Isn’t it sin for him ?? and the consequences we wud hv to face bcoz we hv caused him to sin and also sinning by offering it to him ??
      So we Christians who worship a LIVING GOD are aware of another’s man’s faith & practices then why are we justifying our actions knowing that we are sinning against our God.

  • Father Warner everything you have written is good except “YOU CANNOT PARTAKE OF THE TABLE OF THE LORD before you make your confession.”. It means knowingly you can commit sin (by the way this is a grave sin) and then go and confess. It means you are giving license to sin because there is a way out to get rid of sin. So anyone can participate in idol worship and eat food offered to idols.


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