Home Catechetical Corner Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Coffee with St. Paul

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Coffee with St. Paul

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Sunday Scripture readings, Jan. 31, 2021: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1) Dt 18:15-20
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
2) 1 Cor 7:32-35
Gospel: Mk 1:21-28

Coffee with St. Paul

Sometimes when I read St. Paul’s letters, I wish it were possible to put the Bible down and have a conversation with him. “Look,” I would say, “it seems to me you just contradicted yourself.” Or “what you just said doesn’t take into account some other important considerations.” Or “I don’t get it. Please explain!”

Kevin Perrotta writes for Catholic News Service

Reading today’s excerpt from Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth, I wonder if a conversation along these lines might actually have taken place the next time he visited them. I picture the scene: After the liturgy, when snacks are served, some of the Corinthians sit with Paul and challenge him on a few points.

Prisca: “I appreciated your encouraging young people to remain single to serve God freely. But what you said about marriage puzzled me.”

Paul: “Well, Prisca, perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly enough.”

Prisca: “You said a married man is anxious to please his wife and a married woman is anxious to please her husband. But I’m sure you know it’s not like that in many marriages.”

Paul: “Oh right. Maybe I should have said explicitly that’s how they ought to treat each other.”

Andronicus: “But isn’t that a beautiful thing, when a husband and wife are trying to make each other happy?”

Paul: “Of course, it’s a tremendous thing!”

Andronicus: “Then why did you use it as a reason for young people to avoid marriage?”

Paul: “I wasn’t trying to help married couples improve their marriages. I did a bit of that earlier, when I talked about couples making love and taking time to pray. At this point, I was trying to guide unmarried people to recognize the benefits of remaining single.”

Andronicus: “Fine. But why use a happy aspect of marriage as a reason to stay unmarried?”

Paul: “Andronicus, you’re a husband. You know how complicated married life can be. Devoting yourself to Junia’s happiness is beautiful. But wouldn’t your life have been simpler if you’d stayed unmarried?”

Andronicus: “Simpler in the sense of being simply attuned to God’s will, without having to think about Junia too?”

Paul: “Yes.”

Junia: “But, Paul, if Andronicus and I are both focused on doing God’s will, that brings simplicity into our lives!”

Paul: “Great point, Junia, thanks for saying it. Seeking God’s will is the source of peace for all of us, whether we’re married or single!”

Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.