27th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
7th October, 2018
Gen 2:18-24; Ps 128:1-6; Heb 2:9-11; Mark 10:1-16
As always, the Scriptures give enlightenment on all challenges facing us in our lives. The readings today seek out the ideal of good human living. It becomes the truth of what it means to be a human person. In regard to marriage, the expression in the first reading and the Gospel are keys to understanding this.
From the Book of Genesis we hear in the first reading: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body”. The radical complementarity of man and woman is seen both in the New Testament and in the Old Testament. It is one of God’s greatest creations. In today’s world, it continues to be a radical teaching.
So, we touch today on a very topical, very sensitive and very painful reality of life in our time – the question of divorce. However, today’s Gospel indicates that it was a controversial question in Jesus’ time and in his society also.
In reply to the Pharisees’, question about the permissibility of divorce Jesus quotes from the book of Genesis in a passage used in our First Reading today. It expresses in beautiful language the ideal of the perfect marriage: "The man exclaimed [speaking about the companion God had given him]: ‘This is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh’… This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife and they become one body."
Most people enter into marriage with good will and with the intention of having an enduring, lifelong relationship. It is a hope sometimes not realised. At the same time, we also have in our society today a pluralistic approach to the concept of marriage from merely seeing it as two people living together “as long as it feels good” to those who believe in marriage as a permanent relationship “in good times and bad”. Moreover, everything in between.
In fact, nowadays when we hear that a couple we know have decided to divorce, it can at times just be taken as a happening – not out of the usual.
Nevertheless, today’s Gospel says that a couple are no longer two persons but "one body". To develop that kind of two-becomes-one relationship requires a lot of work. It requires a good deal of guidance and help to make it happen.
In a sound and enduring marriage, the words of Jesus are realised. One meets people who have been married for decades and are as deeply in love with each other, in fact more so, than on the day of their wedding. One has only to see bereaved spouses to realise the terrible void that is left when a partner of many years dies. They feel as if a part of themselves had been torn from them. It can take years for life to come back to some kind of normalcy.
Divorce, as we experience it in our society today, often involves a genuine breakdown in the marriage relationship which neither partner wishes and which is a cause of deep pain and suffering to both sides. It may be due to some element of immaturity at the time of marriage or the partners growing apart as they develop as persons.
Whatever the reason, this situation is quite different from the one of which Jesus is speaking. One feels that that Jesus would be most sympathetic to the painful breakdowns of marriage which happen today and, as Christians, we too should try to empathise with people in such a situation.
We often see pictures of hearts, telling us of loving hearts. The Feast of the Holy Rosary today reminds us of the enduring love of Mary and Joseph, and the mysteries of the Rosary, which convey such love through the actions of Jesus and his mother, Mary. The hearts of Jesus and Mary were entwined in love and faithful to the end. Such love brings us beyond the convenient and the mediocre to what is deeper and of lasting value. We are reminded that we are to be people for others in this way. Love means reaching out, being with and /or desiring to bring happiness to the other.
This is so appropriate for us as a focus today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Rosary. For many years, Catholics prayed the rosary as a family prayer. Most Catholics would agree that the rosary is a powerful prayer. In fact, some say it is a spiritual weapon against evil. Praying through Mary to Jesus helps us to place our trust in Mary as the Mother of the Church as well as the spiritual mother of our children. Praying in this way also keeps us humble and reminds us that we are really caretakers of our children, who belong to God.
In the few lines at the end of today’s Gospel, Mark reminds us that Jesus is saying that children need to be welcomed and to be offered the reign of God's love. They must be listened to and welcomed with love and understanding. Jesus, who addressed God as ‘Abba!’ Father, knew the secret of the kingdom of God. Only when we accept with delight that God delights in us can we begin to understand the gospel, which Jesus is preaching, and enter into that communion with God, which he enjoys.
So let us particularly remember those who find themselves in all sorts of difficult situations in human life. Let us pray today to Jesus, through our mother Mary: Queen of the Holy Rosary, pray for us.