Hopefully, your life is blessed. Someone asked me a question one day; “Father, how we can live happily in this ungodly world in these days? There is so much anger, hatred, fear, injustice, and lies. How we can be faithful to God and our Christian vocation?” Reflecting on the second reading of St. Paul from today’s Sunday, I decided to make a comment to that question.
From the earliest days of Christianity, believers have felt a conflict with life in the world. This is because Christians know themselves to be citizens of heaven, yet they have to live in the world. It is somewhat like fish living out of water. Christian values and ways of doing things differ considerably from those of the world around us. How do we resolve the conflict?
Christians have responded to this conflict in three ways. First, there are those who respond by conforming to the world around them. Their motto is: If you cannot beat them, join them. Such Christians may still participate enthusiastically in church services, but in their thinking, values, and priorities in life, there is no difference between them and those of the non-believers around them. And we see a lot of Christians today becoming “part” or “very significant part” of the world today. They hold grudges and nurture hatred rather than forgive those who offend them.
Secondly, there are those who respond by flight, fleeing from the world. Some of the early monastic movement and spirituality was driven by a desire to isolate oneself from the world so as to draw near to God. Thomas à Kempis wrote in the Imitation of Christ, “As often as I have been among men, I have come back less a man.” According to this spirituality the way to be holy is to shun contact with society and one’s fellow human beings. This might have worked for some hermits, but it is definitely not intended for the vast majority of Christians.
The third way of responding to the conflict of living by Christian principles in a corrupt world is the most demanding and the most faithful to the teachings of Christ. It is based on the principle of being in the world but not of the world. In one word you can call it detachment. This is what Paul is teaching us: “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the present form of this world is passing away.”
Paul is not urging a flight from the world. He is not saying that people should stop marrying, buying and selling or dealing with the world. He is saying that whereas Christians should engage in these necessary activities, they should go about them with a spirit of detachment. They should go about these occupations without investing their heart and soul, their hope and confidence, in these things.
A deep sea diver lives in the water but breathes the air. Similarly, believers should live in the world but in the spirit of Christ. We should be fully involved with our world and society but our driving force should be the divine spirit that keeps us alive spiritually. Let us resolve to be close to God, to be nourished, guided and enlightened by the light of God’s word while engaging in all the legitimate activities and duties that God has given us in this world – duties in the family, in the community, at work or school, in the community, in the society and in our world. Have a blessed week.