3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Sunday of the Word of God); Year B
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Brothers, this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.
This Sunday is “The Sunday of the Word of God” – in 2019 Pope Francis dedicated the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time as a special Sunday to focus on “celebration, study and dissemination” God’s written Word.
There are things you can read in the Bible that can make you think “What? They can’t mean that, surely”? If you ever find yourself in that situation then the best answer to that question is “Correct – they don’t”. The Bible, while a library of books, is a singular collection of the inspired Word of God, it is internally coherent. It does not contradict itself.
So, with that in mind – how do we make sense of this Sunday’s 2nd Reading? How can we reconcile Paul’s apparent admonition not to mourn the dead but not to enjoy life; to ignore our spouses, but we are to keep marriage holy? How can we understand God’s Word as infallible when we can barely get through 2 sentences without an apparent contradiction?
The key to unlocking our understanding here if the final sentence, “I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.” We can see this as Paul saying, at his time at his place, that the world was passing away at that time, at that place. But, looking at that 2,000 years in the future, we surmise that maybe that isn’t what he meant. A better understanding may come form seeing the words “passing away” not as an action, but a description – that we must remember that the world we live is not forever.
If we keep this at the forefront of our minds – that this world and all in it is not forever – then St. Paul’s advice makes a bit more sense. It isn’t suggesting that married people ignore their partners and embrace a hedonistic lifestyle – but not to become so lost in their earthly relationships to the detriment of our love of God. We shouldn’t not mourn the dead at all – be we shouldn’t become lost in the mourning that we forget about our new lives. And we shouldn’t not enjoy the pleasures of life, and the things we can buy to enjoy it more – but we must not, as St. Paul puts it “…become engrossed in it”.
This Sunday, dedicated to the Word of God, is an invitation to us to re-examine our relationship with, and understanding of the Bible. It is one thing I’m sure St. Paul would be happy for us to become engrossed in.