Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Sunday, the second reading will be from 1 Cor 7:29-31. It would be helpful to also read The rest of the chapter, and the other readings for today. It's Lectionary #68, according to the USCCB, if you want to look it up offline.
Can it be that Paul is telling us that we who are married should act like we are not married? That those who weep or rejoice should pretend that their sorrows and joys simply do not exist? That we should not make use of the world that God has set before us?
Of course not! (He says this all the time. I figured it was safe for me to do it too!) To suggest that married people should act as if they were not married would be to suggest that we should neglect our loved ones, rather than teaching them to follow Christ. And to suggest that when we weep or rejoice, we should act as though we are not weeping or rejoicing is to deny a part of the humanity that God blessed us with - our human emotions.
Then what is he talking about?
It is important to note that the first reading this week recounts what the citizens of Nineveh did when warned of God’s coming wrath, and the Gospel reading this week relates the main working of Jesus’ public ministry. He went to Galilee proclaiming that, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” and the call of four of the twelve disciples. In both cases, they drop everything to respond to God.
It is also important to note that he gives this advice in the midst of a section with instructions on marriage and virginity. One of his important points not included in this section is this: an unmarried woman (or man, he says it for both) does not have a husband to draw her attention away from the Lord, as a married woman does.
Members of the early church had a much more concrete sense that they could meet Christ at any time (either at his return, or their martyrdom). That is something we - who are not missionaries in countries where you can be killed or jailed for being a Christian - have lost. It’s not hard to find them, though. Just search the web for “Christian Martyrs 2014”.
It is Paul’s first concern for the Corinthians that they be able to seek the will of the Lord without the world to interfere. His instruction, then, is not to neglect those things which God has blessed us with, but to give to them their proper station and no more.
We should love our families, and we should not allow our homes to fall into a state of disrepair, because we have no idea when Christ might return. We should not, however, allow people or things to take our eye off God. Yes, take your family on a picnic, celebrate your kids’ birthdays, repair your leaky faucet, replace the crummy awning on the back porch, but don’t let these things distract you from loving the Lord and seeking his will for your life.
Let us pray this week for God’s grace to actually see the idols we have set up in our lives in place of him, and how these things might be given their proper station. Let us ask that he take away the scales from our eyes that we might see ourselves as we truly are, rather than as we want ourselves to be. Let’s also ask that God grant us the strength to change our lives, so that we are centered on Christ, rather than on something else.