This World is Passing Away
3rd Sunday Ordinary Time
January 24, 2021
Brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as if they didn’t have them, those weeping as if not weeping, those rejoicing as if not rejoicing, those buying as if not owning... for the world as we know it is passing away. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
St. Paul wrote these perplexing words almost 2000 years ago, to people very much like you and me. Corinth was a big and very important port city on the Aegean Sea. On one of our previous pilgrimages we actually celebrated Mass right in the heart of ancient Corinth and I can tell you that the world and the people that St. Paul wrote to have indeed passed away. There is nothing left there now but magnificent ruins.
One wonders at times what will be left of our civilization or the memory of our lives in 2000 years. Since the Corinthians built their grand buildings in stone, at least some of them have endured, albeit as ruins. Will anything be left to see of our electronic age? How long will our digital records last? 20 years? Even now, our world is passing away, right before our eyes. Yesterday’s technological wonders are tomorrow’s trash.
Periodically the Lord will remind us of these facts: that we are not home yet, that we actually own nothing, that our very lives are in fact extremely vulnerable and fragile (Covid 19 for example). God uses many and varied ways to drive this point home: through a sudden illness, a reversal of fortune, a lost job, a friend who is not there for us when we need them to be, on days when nothing seems to go our way, when our good intentions or hard work are misunderstood or unappreciated, when we are taken advantage of or when we are offended by something, when we are delayed or held up, when others are inconsiderate of our feelings or our opinion.
For the world as we know it is passing away. Most of us spend our lives trying to avoid trials like these, and yet it is essential that we be detached from the things of this world in order to be ready to embrace the one that is coming. The Lord just doesn’t want us to get too comfortable here, because this is not home, but only a way-station. Such contradictions are, in fact, essential to our spiritual growth.
Seen from the Lord’s perspective in the scriptures, every illness, every loss, every denial of our own will is actually a very great grace, because through these means our Lord endeavors to prepare us for the world that is coming, the one that will not pass away, where such things do not exist -- the world that is truly our home.