27th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16
There is a story about a couple who had just gone through a marriage ceremony in the Church after a long process of legal annulment for their previous marriages. The following day the wife went and took out the marriage license and sat in the living room examining it very carefully back and forth. So the husband finally said to his wife, "Honey, why do you keep reading our marriage license?" The wife responded,” I'm looking for a loophole!" That story, illustrates one of the reasons why we face so many divorces today. Marriage today is described as a fragile institution in our society. Divorce rates are around 40% with divorce among Catholics reaching around 20%. Scripture challenges us to transform the negative aspects in our culture. The readings this Sunday challenge our secular understanding of marriage as a temporary union and lead us to see why Jesus teaches marriage as a lifelong commitment. Christian marriage is a permanent union in God's original purpose. That sounds contradictory to the popular view of secular society. In the Gospel, the Pharisees test Jesus by asking whether it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife (“send her away”). Jesus responds by asking them about what the law said, and they quote Deuteronomy 4:1, which allowed a husband to divorce his wife by simply writing a bill of divorce. (cf Matt. 1:19). Then Jesus responds by quoting two sayings from two creation accounts of Genesis: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27), and “the two of them become one flesh” (in today’s first reading). In this passage, the first century Jewish law seems to have favoured divorce, but in actual practice divorce was not that common. Therefore, the point Jesus makes in the Gospel is not so much an attack on a widespread practice, but an affirmation of the life-long nature of marriage.
The first reading shows God establishing marriage at the beginning of creation for two essential purposes: the unity of the married couple (the two shall become one flesh); and their mutual interdependence. In other words, neither man alone nor woman alone contains the fullness of God’s creative design, but man and woman in union with each other. Jesus therefore views marriage, in which man and woman are no longer two but one, living in unity and interdependence, as a symbol of restored creation. Therefore there is an integral connection between mutual love and procreation in marriage. The point Jesus makes is that under the new Law of love, divorce destroys the original purpose of God in creation: “the two become one flesh”. Marriage as a permanent union is founded on the value of unity that continually offers support to its permanence. This teaching on the permanent character of Christian marriage is an inspiration to some, while painful for others in today’s society. There is no marriage without moments of tears. At the end of the day what preserves the permanence of marriage is the determination to stay together, “for better for worse” – no matter what happens. The very fact that some marriages manage to weather the storms of marriage rough seas is a miracle only brought about by prayer and the willingness to forgive and to be forgiven. The message is threefold. 1) Jesus teaches that marriage is a permanent union in God's original purpose. 2) Marriage has a character of permanent union precisely because it is founded on the value of unity: “the two become one flesh”. 3) In rocky moments of married life, what saves marriage is prayer, mutual self-giving, forgiveness and reconciliation. May we also remain close in prayer and support for members of our parish who currently experience the pain of broken marriages and family life. I am Msgr. John Mbinda, St. John Apostle and Evangelist, Mililani, Hawaii. God bless you.
©2012 John S. Mbinda