January 31, 2021
The new Christians of Corinth were asking St. Paul about virginity and marriage. He reveals the new way of living these, living our whole life for the Lord, for an eternal happiness.
- Do not get attached to this world, you have been chosen and called by God to a personal union with Him.
- God is worthy of being loved completely. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and strength.
- The Holy Family had a true marriage, undivided, by always putting God first.
- There are two ways to enter a marriage. First, as a human decision which could easily fall apart, and secondly, to enter marriage after discernment as a call from God.
- Marriage is a call to die to one’s self and to give themselves to God through the gift of service to another person.
- The Christian faith gives us a new meaning for the unmarried to live a life in union with our Lord with an undivided devotion and loving Him with their whole hearts.
Corinth was especially known as a place of immorality. So, this is a very difficult situation they are in. Christianity, this new faith that they have embraced, changes everything. They have a lot of questions about marriage, virginity and decisions they have to make. The second reading we have today is Paul’s response to these questions from the people of Corinth. St. Paul says, “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman or virgin is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband.”. What he is revealing is that you have been chosen by God and called to a union with God. That is not a union that happens by force, but a union of friendship, of love, in which you are invited.
St. Paul is showing a new way of living marriage for the Lord, and this deepens the joys and it gives hope in the difficulties of marriage. St. Paul is also talking then about the unmarried and Christianity. The Christian faith gives a new meaning to this as an opportunity to live it for the Lord. So, whatever our situation is, each one of us has been chosen by God, called by God to union with Him. We have the opportunity and the choice of living our life for the Lord, to please Him with undivided devotion to the Lord and to love him with our whole heart.
Questions about marriage and virginity? The second reading we have today is Paul’s response to these questions from the people of Corinth. Corinth was a big city, a big, bustling city. Most of the Corinthians were Gentiles. They had been pagans. Now their life has changed, but they are still living in Corinth and there is so much corruption, so much brutality. Corinth was especially known as a place of immorality. So, this is a very difficult situation they are in. Christianity, this new faith that they have embraced, changes everything. It is shocking to the people, the society that they are living in, it is so revolutionary. They have a lot of questions about marriage and about virginity, and about the decisions that they have to make. Today, our situation is a little bit different. We are also living in a society, which has rejected Christian faith. Christianity often seems shocking. I wanted to take a few moments to look at this passage, this reading we had today. It is from chapter seven, the first letter to Corinthians. St. John Paul has reflected on this chapter in his famous theology of the body reflections, and I was reading over that as I was preparing this. St. Paul says, “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman or virgin is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband.” Let us look a little bit about what St. Paul is saying here. I think that the key point that inspires all of what he is saying is, while we remember last week, we talked about how in the same chapter, he spoke so strongly about how all this world is passing away, not to get attached to what is of this world, because all is passing. I think at the heart of what St. Paul is saying, is something very simple, but very revolutionary, especially in a pagan society. What he is revealing, the Christian faith reveals, is that you have been chosen by God, and called to a union with God, to a personal union. That is not a union that happens by force, but a union which is a union of friendship, of love, in which you are invited, and so invited, not forced to enter into a union of God to share His life, the way a young man or young woman can want to unite their lives, share their lives. God calls you to share His life, His Divine life forever. In the difficult human struggles of this world, and for instance, in Corinth and like most pagan societies, there was slavery. St. Paul is revealing that slaves were terribly treated, babies and children were terribly treated, women were treated as second class citizens. St. Paul is revealing that every human person is loved by God, and called to union with God, eternal union. As St. Paul very simply says, “For me to live is Christ.” To live is Christ, the whole meaning St. Paul realized the whole meaning for his life, and for each of our lives, is union with Jesus Christ. That is the goal. That is the reason that we exist. That is why St. Paul talks about being anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. So, anxious about the affairs of the Lord. St. John Paul, when he reflects on this, says, “what are the affairs of the Lord?” The affairs of the Lord are everything that belongs to the Lord. It is especially the Church, especially the salvation of souls. It is especially being anxious for the Church and the salvation of souls. And then he says, “anxious about how to please the Lord.” He says, we’re anxious about what we care about. We want to please someone when we love them. And so what he’s talking about is a person who has put love for the Lord in union with the Lord, above all. St. Paul says, “For me to live is Christ.” And so again, that’s revolutionary, back then, in Corinth, and today. And a society which wants to exclude God, from everything, exclude Jesus from everything, is not possible, not only can God not be excluded, but He’s the reason everything exists. And He’s the reason you and I exist. He’s the reason for our lives, not just because He created us, but because we are made for union with Him. That’s the whole reason for everything. And so again, this is a complete revolution from the way our society thinks. And he says how to be holy in body and spirit. Because holy in Scripture means been set apart for God. Who has been set apart for God? How many of you here are Baptized? What happened when you were Baptized? You were set apart for God. You were consecrated to belong to God. And so it’s talking about each one of us. So that’s the reality, the divine reality of our life. But St. Paul is realistic that we struggle with division, so many things that distract and divide us. St. Paul speaks of his motivation, given his teaching, he says, “I want you to be free from anxieties.” That’s the reason he’s saying this. I want you to be free from anxieties, from so many things which divide us and tears us in different directions. He goes on to say, “I say this for your own benefit. Not to lay a restraint upon you.” He’s answering your questions. They’re asking these questions. And he’s saying, I’m not saying this, to lord over you, to control you, to dominate you. I’m saying this, because it’s what’s most beneficial for you. Not to lay a new strain upon you but to promote good order to put things where they should be, that is to put first things first, to put God first. That’s why our society is so messed up. Because it has taken the first thing and rejected it. So, nothing makes sense. Nothing works. He says, and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord, to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord, to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. That should be the case for every Christian because each of us is made for God. And what is Jesus Christ saying? When they asked Jesus, what is the greatest commandment? What does He say? He says, to love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. Jesus doesn’t say, well, there’s a few people who should live this. But everyone else loves the Lord your God with at least 40% of your heart. He doesn’t say that. He says, everyone, each one of us is called to union with God. That’s the infinite greatness of your call, of your dignity. And that’s what that means; God is worthy of being loved completely. And so that’s the great light which illuminates St. Paul in his teaching. He speaks to the married. St. Paul here is not disparaging. He’s not putting down marriage. There were pagan groups, and there have even been Christian heresies that considered marriage as evil. But St. Paul clearly says that marriage is a good and holy vocation. In fact, Christianity reveals like never before, the holiness and the dignity of Christian marriage. St. Paul, especially in Ephesians, chapter five, raises marriage to a sacrament. But he speaks very realistically about the problem of been divided in marriage. He says in another part of this chapter, “If you marry, you do not sin.” Yet, he is saying it’s not wrong to get married. It’s a good thing. But it says yet those who marry will have troubles in the flesh. That’s also translated worldly troubles. And I would spare you from that. So. he’s wanting people to be realistic about the struggles in marriage, and about the problem of often being divided. But I think what St. Paul is not saying is that it has to be that way. I think what he’s saying is that often, realistically, it is that way. But we had the example of many saints, who lived marriage with an undivided heart. And sometimes both spouses lived that way. We had the supreme example, in the Holy Family of our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, who lived marriage, a true marriage. They were not divided. Each one of them loved the Lord, their God with all their heart, all their mind, all their soul, all their strength. It’s very challenging, but it’s possible. And we see an example of the Holy Family, that putting God first is not a distraction of marriage. But it makes marriage capable of realizing its full potentials. So, a person can enter marriage in two ways. One way is simply as a human decision. That’s why a lot of people get married. And it’s one of the reasons so many marriages struggle and fall apart. Another way is to enter into marriage, after having discerned it as a vocation, as a call from God. And that’s why I’ve often said, it’s very helpful for a young person to be able to take a time and extend the time I would say, (I talked about this not long ago) maybe a semester or a year, to set apart that time, to give that time to God and to discern their vocation. Not just to discern it, but also to deepen it. Because if we want to put God first, those roots take time to deepen. I think that would be one of the greatest things our society could do; to invite young people to take that time. I have often thought that I would like to change the way marriages are celebrated. I compare them to religious profession, a religious profession, is a joyful moment. But it’s also sober, because the person knows that they’re preparing for a life, of sacrifice, of giving themselves to God. Marriage is often presented as a fairy tale day, which is going to be the beginning of happily ever after. And it’s not. Marriage also is a call to die to myself, to give myself to God through the gift of service to another person. If it was understood that way, and if the marriage day was lived that way, it would prepare couples so much better than creating false expectations, which won’t be realized. Sometimes, many times, people don’t discover this until later on. Many of the Corinthians, many perhaps of you all, it was only later on that you began to realize the importance of the Lord. But it’s not too late. Even if we didn’t realize that when we got married, it’s not too late to decide we want to live it for the Lord and offer the joys and the sacrifices to the Lord. Because St. Paul is showing a new way of living marriage, for the Lord. And this deepens the joys, and it gives hope in the difficulties of marriage. St. Paul is also talking then about the unmarried and Christianity. The Christian faith gives a new meaning to this as an opportunity to live it for the Lord. When he says the unmarried, that can take different forms. He’s not talking about those who are living together. He’s talking about those in the different circumstances, whether they’re preparing for marriage one day; whether they’re in what didn’t yet exist, in an established form of consecrated life at that point. Whether it’s many difficult situations, or a person who is single, a person who’s separated, or civilly divorced, a person who’s widowed, for whatever circumstances or whatever faults that might be involved, or lack of faults. Whether it’s a situation the person has chosen, or not chosen. All these different situations. What St. Paul is saying is not that being unmarried in itself is preferable, because a person can be married for different motives. It can be trying to avoid commitment, it can be for selfishness, but what he’s talking about is the possibility of those who are unmarried, and who live it for the Lord and His kingdom. Even if that was not the original reason, even if they didn’t originally choose it for that. They can live it for this reason. It says the unmarried are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. So, he’s talking about the special possibility of living, that situation of being unmarried with undivided devotion to the Lord, loving Him with our whole heart. So, he’s showing that there’s a whole new way of living a situation of being unmarried, which is a situation which can also be lived in a fullness of love, a fullness of union with God. And so many people are called to marriage, and many people are not called to marriage. St. Paul says, each one has his own special gift from the Lord, one of one kind, and one of another. God gives different gifts. And he also says let everyone lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him, recognizing that God calls people in different ways. And in fact, the example of St. Joseph and our Blessed Mother; their models of married life. And they’re also models of virginity. They’re models for both of these paths. So, whatever our situation is, each one of us has been chosen by God, called by God to union with Him. We have the opportunity and the choice of living our life, for the Lord, to please Him, with undivided devotion to the Lord, to love him with our whole heart. So, we can say with St. Paul, for me to live is Christ. So, in this mass today, especially in the Offertory, which will be coming up in a few moments, it’s an opportunity for you, if you want to make or to renew the gift of yourself, the consecration of yourself, of your state of being unmarried or married, to offer that to consecrate it to the Lord. If you’ve done it before, you can renew that gift. So with St. Joseph, with our Blessed Mother, with St. Paul, let us offer our lives to the Lord. Amen.