OCTOBER 7TH, 2018: TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
The LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a suitable partner for him."
So the LORD God formed out of the ground
various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name.
The man gave names to all the cattle,
all the birds of the air, and all wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.
So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep,
he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib
that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:
"This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called 'woman, '
for out of 'her man' this one has been taken."
That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.
Brothers and sisters:
He "for a little while" was made "lower than the angels, "
that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he,
for whom and through whom all things exist,
in bringing many children to glory,
should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.
He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated
all have one origin.
Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers.”
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
"Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?"
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?"
"Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her."
But Jesus told them,
"Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate."
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery."
And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
"Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it."
Then he embraced them and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.
Most readers of Scripture have no idea that Genesis’ first two chapters contain two contradictory creation stories. Instead of appreciating their differences, we usually treat them as we treat Matthew and Mark’s two contradictory birth of Jesus narratives: combine them and create a third, more acceptable narrative. We’re accustomed to approaching our faith from a catechism mindset, not a biblical perspective; always searching for the either/or answer to every issue. We “Greek-thinking” westerners are understandably uncomfortable with the multiple answers that are an essential part of Scripture’s both/and outlook on life.
As the late Fr. Frank Cleary often reminded us, “If you find an internal contradiction in a biblical passage, that’s the sacred author’s way of telling you not to take the passage literally.” This certainly applies to Genesis’ first two chapters.
Though we’re more familiar with the Genesis 1 creation myth – the “six day” one - the Genesis 2 narrative is almost 500 years older. Unlike the God of Genesis 1, this God makes mistakes e.g. creating man without a helpmate, then thinking one of the animals could take over that role. Yet one of the things prompting the “Yahwistic” author to write seems to be the generally accepted belief that women were created inferior to men. That seems to be why she states that, because the first woman came from the man’s rib, she’s made of the same “stuff” as man. Contrary to popular opinion, she wasn’t created from some throwaway batch of raw material.
In a parallel way, the author’s “etiological” explanation of intercourse challenges the “smutty” accounts circulating in her day and age. Her explanation revolves around a myth that since the man and woman were one in the beginning, their intimate moments are simply attempts to become one again. The gospel Jesus will later employ this story as one of the reasons he prohibits divorce.
Though Judaism, based on Deuteronomy, permitted divorce, Jesus is convinced Moses did so only because of people’s “hardness of heart.” Had Moses dared teach Yahweh’s actual will on the subject, no one would have followed it. So . . . why waste your breath? Yet, in Jesus’ reform of Judaism, we should return to God’s original plan for married couples, not base our lives on the exception.
Obviously, this idealistic interpretation of God’s mind created as many problems back then as it does now. It’s certainly more difficult working through marriage problems than it is to quickly end the problems by divorce. Without doubt, some couples should not be together. But it’s important to note Jesus’ no-divorce regulation is, like the law to love our neighbor, more a goal we’re expected to work toward than something we’re obligated to accomplish . . . or else. Being another Christ can at times get complicated. Perhaps that’s why Mark joins his no-divorce narrative to his annoying children story.
Toward the end of my high school teaching career, it became evident more and more of my marriage course students were determined not to have children. When I asked, “Why not?” most replied, “They’re a drag!”
A perceptive response!
But from my experience, they’ve always been a drag. We now simply have more reliable ways of preventing their intrusion into our peaceful existence. Yet when Jesus blesses them, he’s thanking God for even pesky children being a part of our lives. They’re a joy along with being a pain.
The Hebrews author rejoiced over Jesus being one of us. As a human being he gave himself over to suffering through the frustrating evils inherent in relationships in order to eventually experience the unique joys inherent in relationships.
Reminds me of a poster that stated: Grandkids are your reward for not having killed your teenage children. Very theological!