Detachment from the World

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) – Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; First Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20. This series appears each Wednesday.

Photography © by Andy Coan

Peter and Andrew were businessmen.  So were their neighbors, James and John.  They tried to wring a living out of the Sea of Galilee, and it probably took nearly all of the time and energy that they had.

So it would have been easy to pass on the chance to hear some new prophet proclaim that the Kingdom of God had finally arrived.  And then, having heard this message, they could have rolled their eyes and chuckled about how they hoped that this Kingdom would put more fish in the lake.  Or they could have made excuses that this was all very interesting, but following the wandering rabbi from Nazareth was more suitable for single men with no mouths to feed.

No, when Jesus invited them to learn to catch men instead of fish, they dropped their nets, abandoned their businesses, and went on the road.

Is it wrong to have a family?  Is it wrong to be in business?  Are these secular activities inappropriate for a disciple of Jesus?

Not in the least.  The Church teaches that we can serve the Lord and grow in holiness through any honest task, whether we are single or married.  But St. Paul also tells us that the Christian engaged in secular activities must inwardly detach from them: “those who have wives should live as though they have none . . . buyers should conduct themselves as if they owned nothing, and those who make use of the world as though they were not using it, for the world as we know it is passing away.”  (I Cor 7:29-31)

The word “secular” means “of this world.”  Now it is true that God likes this world.  After all, he created it.  But when sinful humanity gets a hold of the things of this passing world, it doesn’t want to let go.  It becomes engrossed, absorbed, consumed with them to the neglect of what lasts forever, namely the Kingdom of God.

In Jesus, the Kingdom has touched down on planet earth.  We need to re-form our lives, which is not only to say repent from sin, but actually structure our lives totally around the kingdom and its priorities.  Kingdom priorities might dictate that many enter into the sacrament of matrimony in order to raise up new heralds of the kingdom and leaders of God’s people.  And Christ may call others to involve them in business so as to provide financially for God’s work and to infuse Christian values into the marketplace.

Detachment does not mean that you shouldn’t enjoy your secular pursuits and approach them with energy and enthusiasm.  It just means that your daily activity must be placed on the altar, offered up to God as a living sacrifice.  And you must be ever ready to walk away from your activities at a moment’s notice, should Jesus call you to do so.  Moments of truth will come to test just how serious we about living for God rather than for sports, careers and even families.

Yes families.  There are times when duty calls soldiers to leave their families.  The same holds true for breadwinners – my great-grandfather left family behind in Italy for several years while he prepared a better place for them in America.  So why should we be surprised that at times some may be called to leave family for the sake of the Kingdom of God?

We may not be called literally to leave all behind to walk the dusty trails of Israel.  But there will come a moment when we may hear an invitation to decline a scholarship, or a promotion, or a romance for the sake of the Kingdom.

As the gospel story unfolds, we learn that the apostles had more than a few shortcomings.  But we have to admit this–that when that initial call came, as challenging as it was, they made no excuses.  Can the same be said for us?


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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