Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
29 Jesus will soon return! From now on, we should live like he is already here. Married people should focus on more than each other. 30 Sad people should not merely be concerned with their sadness. Happy people should look beyond their happiness. Everyone should not be so concerned how they make or spend money. 31 Even though we make use of the opportunities the world give us, we should not obsess over them. For the ways of the world will soon be gone.
29 But this I say, brothers; the right time is drawn near. From this moment on, those having wives should be as not having, 30 those crying as not crying, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not possessing, 31 those making use of the world as not making full use of (it). For the shape of this world is passing away.
7:29 "the right time" is "kairos" in Greek. It refers to an event in time, a critical moment, a turning point in history. Since Paul expected the Second Coming any moment, he saw the time of his writing as a lead up to Christ's return.
7:30 "the shape of this world is passing away" Notice Paul did not see the end of the world (i.e., its destruction), but its form or shape. Implicitly, Paul meant the rule and culture of humanity would give way to that of God.
Much has been written about 1 Corinthians 7. St. Paul urged his followers to remain unchanged, for the world around them would change. Much of the confusion over these verses occurred when tradition turned Paul's attitude into institutions. When he wrote about marriage and the single state, Paul simply stated celibacy could be a sign of the end times (an "eschatological" sign). But, unlike many of those who have used these verses in an attack upon or a defense of celibacy in the ordained and religious life, Paul had a greater vision. And, hence, a greater urgence. In his eyes, the world was coming to an end. Christians should be primarily concerned about the coming of the Lord, not upon their daily existence. Paul lumped the practice of marriage with the joys and pains of daily living. And with the daily necessities of commerce.
Paul wrote about detachment. The urgency found in the Christian message could be more easily addressed if the person was detached from the daily routine. Notice, Paul did not deny the necessities of daily living. He warned against obsessing over them to the point of blindness. Nothing was certain in this world. Everything was changing. In such a world, Christians needed to keep the long view. Detachment was the spiritual sight for the long view. Detachment did not deny emotional attachments. It placed limits on those attachments. And it gave those attachments a priority. God and the Good News were first. Everything else was second. All in its place.
The words of St. Paul ring true today, even when the urgency of his message has lost some steam. Despite the delay in the Second Coming, God calls us to place the cares, concerns, and routine of daily living into a context. And to remember who is first in life. Our daily existence, with all its stress, should not get in the way of that priority.
What are your daily concerns for the moment? How can you detach yourself from them? How can you place them in the hands of God?