1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Just a few words on our strange second reading and Paul’s advice to those who were thinking of getting married. Can you remember what it was like planning your own wedding? Remember the chaos. There was the date, the hall, the church, the dress, the tux, the wedding party, the guests; the list goes on and on. These are the anxieties Paul is writing about. For Paul, in the big scheme of things, these were non issues. He wanted people to be focused. The unmarried person is focused on God and the things of God whereas the married person is scattered, how to please his wife, how deal with the world around him.
We really have to put all this in the context of the times. Paul and most of the early Christians expected the world as they knew it to end soon. Paul expected to welcome the returning Jesus in his own life time. It was this firm expectation that made him caution people from entering into long-term relationships that might distract them from developing the most important relationship of their lives, their unhindered devotion to Christ. Paul was not against marriage or family life but because of his conviction of the imminent return of Jesus, marriage or planning for marriage was not a primary concern.
But let’s go back to the opening words of our second reading; “I want you to be free from anxieties.” The dictionary defines anxiety as a state of tension or uneasiness caused by apprehension of possible future misfortune. Does that sound familiar?
Imagine the anxiety of people living in communities facing the closure of auto plants and all the associated industries. Imagine the anxiety caused by the word, ‘downsizing’. Imagine the anxiety of retired men and women as they see their investments dwindle in value or see their pensions diminished. Imagine the anxiety of young couples with mortgages they may not able to carry. Imagine the anxiety of men and women who know their companies are planning lay offs. Imagine the anxiety of students at York University as they face the possibility of losing their academic year.
The financial melt down that impacts just about every country on the planet has united people of every land in one common reality: anxiety – a state of tension or uneasiness caused by apprehension of possible future misfortune. We can add to the definition, apprehension about present misfortune.
Paul’s wish for the church in Corinth would be the same wish he would have for each of us; ” I want you to be free from anxieties.” Can we ever be? After we say the Our Father we pray; “protect us from all anxiety,” but can we ever live a day without being anxious about something; our health, our job, our family, our relationships?
I have a friend called Anxious Annie. If she didn’t have something to worry about, she’d worry.
“I want you to be free from anxieties.” Paul wants us to stay focused on what is really important. Paul expected his world would end soon and for many people that’s exactly what is happening, their world is coming to an end, things are falling apart, their old securities are gone, and they face an uncertain future.
Let’s go back in our imagination to a night long ago when Jesus shared his last meal with his closest friends. It was a happy meal but it was an anxious meal. There was a sense of foreboding in the air. Jesus knew what the next day would bring, He would be betrayed, denied, abandoned and He would die. There must have been tension in the air. What does Jesus say to them, “Let not your hearts be troubles, trust in God, trust in me.” Time and again Jesus promises us He will be with us to see us through our anxious times. He will be with us to help us find our way. He promised us we would never be alone.
That’s what we have to hold on to, that trust. We will face these troubled times, we will face our disappointments, and with the presence and help of God we will see our way through. We will find strength and wisdom to do our own downsizing in our personal lifestyles and set for ourselves new priorities, new values and maybe live more lightly upon the earth.
To deny these are anxious times would be an insult, but these are not hopeless times. As we continue the Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that we be free from anxieties and filled with trust in the Christ Who promised, “I am with you always.”