Date: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 4th, 2015
Texts: Genesis 2:18-25; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:1-18; Mark 10:2-16
Context: Family is a recurring theme in the readings for today, except for the Epistle lesson which is to be expected during this liturgical season of Ordinary Time. The readings emphasize God’s original intent in human marriage and family – an intent that remains despite the effects of sin which sometimes make divorce inevitable. In an age where marriage has fallen into disrepute because of high divorce rates, we must always seek to promote and encourage and support Biblical marriage as a gift of God for those He calls into that arrangement.
Genesis 2:18-25 – God creates unity through diversity, single species’ defined by male and female. He allows Adam the opportunity to recognize that he himself lacks a partner, that he himself is not yet whole. When Adam has realized what God already knows, God creates a partner for Adam out of himself. Adam is thus able to receive her with the appropriate joy, as a gift of God that is, in a very real sense, part of himself as well. Separate but together. Unique halves of a common humanity, essential to one another for companionship and procreation and joy itself. This is God’s intention for marriage, an intention which the Church is called upon to proclaim despite the clamor of our culture to redefine it or render it obsolete all together. It is not simply love for one another that should draw man and woman together in marriage, but ultimately love for God above all. In such a situation there is no cause for shame but only joy, as each partner can truly be the blessing to the other God intends, and as such, receive the blessings that come from right relationship to God and spouse and self.
Psalm 128 – A beautiful depiction of the Lord’s blessings. Obedience to God’s word should yield a life that is marked by God’s blessings. Obedience aligns us with the way God created things to be, so that we can experience greater joy and harmony. This psalm aligns well with the pre-Fall condition of Genesis 2. All is as it should be. Mankind has his duties and fulfills them, enjoying the fruits of his labor. Domestic harmony and joy is evident. Husband and wife are a blessing to one another, and in turn are blessed with and by and for children. This is the way things ought to be, but the way things are not far too often because of sin, both the sin within us and the sin around us in the world. As such, could this psalm be read as a picture of how things will be once again when creation is restored?
Hebrews 2:1-18 – Having gone through James, we begin Hebrews, however we begin in chapter 2 for some strange reason, thus missing Paul’s introduction to his theme, the supremacy of Christ. For those of Paul’s hearers who might be inclined to see Jesus in his humanity as somehow less than other heavenly beings such as angels, Paul strives to demonstrate how this is not the case. Perhaps he is dealing with the Greek philosophical assumption that the material is always inferior to the purely spiritual. In Jesus’ incarnation, then, Greek philosophy would be inclined to see a weakness not shared by non-incarnate angels. Paul sets out to address this erroneous line of reasoning.
The angels do indeed have an important role as harbingers of God’s redemptive work. But the redemptive work is carried out exclusively in the person of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus. In perfect obedience to his heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, Jesus in turn is rewarded with Lordship over all creation, an honor nowhere given to angels.
In fact, rather than being a detriment, Jesus’s incarnation is actually a further blessing to you and I, since he shares our humanity and destroyed our enemy, death, from within, having suffered physical death himself. It is his likeness to us in his physicality that enables him to be a trustworthy and effective intercessor on our behalf with God the Father.
Mark 10:2-16 – Jesus corrects the sinful attitude of the Pharisees, who treated divorce as a divine right rather than a divine concession. Jesus illuminates the depths of their sinfulness in this matter. While we aren’t assigned verse 1, probably because it seems extraneous, it is actually very helpful. Jesus is in the region beyond the Jordan, the former stomping grounds of John the Baptist. Why isn’t John there any longer? Mark 6 tells us that John is not there because he is dead. Arrested because of his public castigation of Herod and his wife Herodias. And what did he take them to task for? Marriage and divorce. In other words, the Pharisees ask Jesus to teach on marriage in a region where Herod has already demonstrated a willingness to arrest and even execute those who disagree with his personal life.
Jesus does not shy away. The pharisees – like us – take divorce for granted, even seeing it as a blessing from God. Jesus makes clear that divorce is not a gift from God. It is a result of our sinfulness. Rather, God’s intention was that man and woman united in marriage would remain as such for all their lives. God has joined them as such, and it should not be prerogative of man (or woman) to dissolve this union.
Jesus goes on to further affirm the value of children. Between these two scenes we see Jesus affirming our family lives as they were intended to be – man and woman united in lifelong marriage, bearing children to whom they are a blessing and through whom they are additionally blessed.
How far we have fallen from this divine ideal! Sin wreaks havoc in individuals, between spouses, and in families. However the effects of sin no way eliminate God’s original intention. We are called to live out our marriages and families to the best of our ability. We must never make the mistake of claiming that divorce is something pleasing to God, and when it is absolutely necessary, we must undertake it in repentance both as individuals and in Christian community. As such, we must receive the forgiveness of God that enables us and our families and our Christian community to move on as witnesses of God’s grace.
Christian communities need to be places where marriage is taken seriously and the faithful are encouraged to live out their marital vows in faithfulness and joy. But at times the Church must also be the place to comfort those who are damaged by and in their marriage relationship, and when necessary, declare the forgiveness of God to those who are repentant for the necessity or inevitability of divorce. This is a difficult balance to keep, but failure to do so demeans the gift of God in marriage on the one hand, or casts out those who have gone through divorce.