Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects, “Where is YOUR focus?” The question that St. Paul is apparently answering has an impact on our marriages, our mourning and our businesses. Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time and send us a comment. Please read 1 Corinthians 7:29-35.

{mp3}B 11 2012 03 Ord{/mp3}

For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/22/2012The 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
    Focus on God, He Is Focusing on You
    When Sandi and I met, suddenly my life changed.  Didn’t that happen to you when you met your spouse?  I started buying more flowers.  I started to think of what I could do to impress someone else.  My focus changed.  My world became more encompassing.  I started to make sure that my clothes were laundered correctly and I looked clean and kept for when we met.
    Then we got married, and boy did my life change!  I found out that even though I had been doing my own laundry since I was twelve, and even though my clothes looked good enough to get married to her, it wasn’t until I got married that I really learned how to sort out the laundry!
    Do you know what?  I am still having my life changed by my marriage and fatherhood.  I am still having to look at life and readjust how I live.  I have not changed too much of what I know to be true, but my life keeps adjusting to live out what I know is true.
    This is the failure of many relationships that have come into my study and office over the years.  People who are married often don’t realize that as time goes on they need to adjust how they are living their life to the truth that we ought to never get divorced.  Husbands and wives need to be willing to have their behavior changed so that they conform to the will of the Lord that “two shall become one flesh.”  
    This is different from the new overriding principle of marriage which has become “what have you done for me lately.” This principle has change the behavior of those in marriage remarkably.  No longer do we give up ourselves to “become one flesh”.  No, we now get married to “have our own identity fulfilled.”  Anyone who gets married to have someone else be their self-fulfillment is headed for divorce.  Those who get married to create a new thing and be a part of it, those people are headed for many years of marriage, the majority of which will be happy.
    I mention marriage, because that is the primary topic of discussion that St. Paul is addressing in this passage in chapter seven.  The question from the Corinthians is this, “Since we know that our Lord is coming very soon, within the year or so, how does that affect our marriages and our single people?”  St. Paul’s answer is that the Second Coming ought to shape the way they live their lives dramatically.  They ought to continue to be married, St. Paul says, but they ought to live as though the Second Coming was coming.  He says it best in the verses that follow the passage read today.  Listen to what is said,
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.  And the unmarried woman is anxious about the affairs of the Lord…(1 Cor. 7.34-5).
    The overarching principle that St. Paul espouses here is one of living in the world but not be caught up in the trappings of the world.  He is saying, “Be married, but focus on the Lord.  Mourn, but focus on the Lord.  Buy and sell, but desire the Lord, not the possessions you buy.”  It is amazing what will happen when you do that.
    If I seek to please the Lord in my marriage, then I have to check and re-check what I am doing.  I have to ask myself, is this really is in line with what the Lord wants?  I should ask, am I doing what I want?  I have to be selfless and considerate of the Lord’s wishes.  Because I know that his desire is for me to love people through and through, I ought to do that for my mate.  
    St. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, beginning in Chapter 5, verse 25, tells me that I ought to be as Christ was to the church.  Didn’t Christ lay down his life for the church?  Didn’t he sacrifice himself, bodily, for the church?  It says that I am to be without spot or blemish like Christ.  I am to be a holy man, if I am married.  Christian men are to be selfless in their marriage, and so are our wives.
    Do you see how the focus of marriage shifts from me, to the Lord, then to the other person?  What kinds of marriages would we have if we all were to take this focus?  So, be married, but do not focus on your desires, or your self-fulfillment.  Focus on making your mate holy.  Focus on your spouse.  Focus on the Lord’s desire for your marriage.  Live in this world, but do not fall prey to all its trappings.  I can tell you that what really kills a marriage is not what is seen as stringent religion.  What kills a marriage is the selfishness of the modern craze of self-fulfillment.  
For a marriage, by definition, is a joining of two people to make something new.  It is not the co-habitation of two people to fulfill each other’s expectations.  So, if we live the married life like we were not married, we would live our married life focusing on the Lord which in turn makes us focus on our mate.
    This principle of focusing on the Lord can be applied to mourning or our business affairs, too.  St. Paul tells us those who are mourning the loss of someone dear and close, they ought to be sad, yes, but not lose their hope because the Lord is in control.  They ought not dwell on their loss, but on the life that the Lord gives those who have gone on to the next life before us.
    For those who have money and are in business, they are to not spend it on worthless things, they are to live with restraint.  They ought to buy what they need and help with those who have not.  They ought to be generous in their wages and benefits as they are able.  They ought to know that the Lord has given them the means to make the up-building of the Common Good possible.
    There is a person I know who always pigeon holes me and says, “Don’t you want to be a millionaire?  Don’t you know that while we are waiting for the Lord we don’t have to wait in misery!”  Last week they said, “You have given your life so much for others, isn’t it time you got something for yourself?”  And this person is a self-proclaimed evangelist!
    If I lived my life for myself, if I thought that all there was to life was the here and now, then I would take that bait.  But, there is something that just doesn’t sit right with me.  The way of the cross is self-denial because self-denial lets us sleep at night.  There is nowhere in the scriptures where it says that the Lord will definitely make you a millionaire.  It is just not there.  There IS a place that says that if you are a cheerful giver, the Lord loves you.  There IS another place that says that if you give away all you have you will receive blessing upon blessing.
    If we don’t want to take it on faith, we can take it from proof.  Andrew Carnegie was a very rich man during a time when money was scarce.  What is Andrew Carnegie known for the most, his steel or his books?   Andrew Carnegie will be known for hundreds of years for all the libraries that he built across the United States.  In every small town in my home state of Indiana, almost, it seems there is a Carnegie Library.  It wasn’t that Andrew Carnegie made a lot of money that is impressive, it is impressive that he gave a good deal of it away.
    If God should allow you to be rich, or even if you are not rich, if you just “buy and sell,” you must ask yourself the question, “What would the Lord want me to do with my money?”
    In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” the main character George Bailey is about to lose everything and decides to kill himself.  His guardian angel is sent to show him that he had a wonderful life.  Time and again the angel shows George that without his generosity, if he had never been born, people would have died, they would not have had houses to live in, nor would have others stayed out of lives of avarice and prostitution.  In the end, when word got out that George Bailey needed money, people came from all over town and all over the world to give him the money he needed to stay afloat.  There was an inscription in the book that his angel gave him it reads, “No man is poor who has friends.”
    You may think that I want you to be like George Bailey so that you can be saved in a time of trouble.  No, I want you to be like all those people who gave to George Bailey when he was in trouble.  I want you to have dreams and try to live them, but not to be so beholden to them that you forget to help out the George Bailey’s who help the world.  Go for your dreams, but not at the expense of denying the Lordship of God over our time and money, or denying the need for us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
    You see, following Christ means that our focus on life changes.  We are moved by God to look at relationships, business, money, and all aspects of life through the prism of Christ.  We are moved to ask the question, “How can I do this for God’s glory?”    Being a Christian is being earnest in our approach to the Christian life. It is to live life with the focus that we want to live the faithful life in every aspect.  That is what St. Paul is advising us to do.  He is telling us to live our lives, but to live them for the Lord in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.
    I invite you to focus your business, your time, your money, and your life on God.  Think of one small way that you can change your life to focus more on the Lord.  Then share how you have changed your life with a friend this week.  Who knows, you could recommit to your marriage vows and have an argument settled or fall in love all over again.  Focus on the Lord, for he is good and his loving kindness endures forever.  Amen?  Amen.

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