Sunday Sermon for October 3, 2021, the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16
In the first reading we have the story of the creation of Eve. There are a couple things to note here. First, God creates all the animals and brings them to Adam for him to name. At this point, Adam is newly created and has no idea that he is the only human person in creation. In naming the animals, he realizes there is no one for him to love and no one in creation to love him. Certainly, he had the love of God, but Adam was made of both body and soul, therefore, it was necessary for him to be able to express his love, not only spiritually, but also physically.
We also can assume that in naming the animals, Adam must have noticed that there were two of each species. This was necessary so the animals were able to reproduce. It would also make sense that Adam recognized how each pair of animals possessed complementary faculties that attracted them and allowed their reproduction to occur. In finding no one like himself, Adam eventually realized that he was alone. All the animals could reproduce, but there was no human person with whom he could express his love, spiritually as well as physically.
This brings us to the second point of interest in the first reading. Every human person on the face of the planet is born from a woman. Eve, however, was taken from a man. Adam, of course, was created directly by the Lord and was made from the dust of the earth. So, not only are Adam and Eve the first two people on earth, but they are different from every other human person in their origin.
We are told that the manner of Eve’s creation is the reason a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. Something that Adam possessed when he was created was taken from him to make Eve. This revealed to Adam that his fulfillment as a person is going to be found only when that which was used in the creation of Eve was reunited to himself.
Clearly, in the way God made human persons with their complementarity physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, the two fulfill one another because the other possesses the qualities that are lacking in themselves. This would explain the adage that opposites attract. While this is correct, it seems from the way Scripture presents things, there is a different kind of fulfillment that will happen in Adam, even though both are fulfilled in the complementarity of the other.
Jesus addresses this point in the Gospel and says something very important: “What God has joined together no human being must separate.” Unlike the animals that have a God-given attraction to one another in their complementarity, human beings are given something very different. There is without doubt an attraction to one another on many levels, but the union of a male and female in marriage is forged by God. The couple uses their free will to choose to be married, but it is God who unites them.
The expression of the marriage is in the consummation, but God joins the two persons prior to that expression. In the Church, the two are united at the moment the vows are proclaimed and received. Immediately following this exchange of vows, the Church has the priest or deacon make the statement we saw above: “What God has joined, let no man put asunder.” The placement of this statement tells us the Church sees the union of the couple taking place in the Church. In other words, there is a spiritual union that takes place in marriage; the physical union is the outward expression of the spiritual union.
This is why our Lord states that anyone who divorces his or her spouse and marries another commits adultery. In our society, with its rampant divorce rate, we do not like to hear this. Perhaps we brush it off as being antiquated; we live in the twenty-first century, so we know better than the ancients. It was God Who spoke these words, and the truth of His words has cannot change.
So profound is the reality of this truth that when Jesus was “made lower than the angels” that He might “taste death for everyone,” His death began a new creation. As it was with Adam and Eve, the Bride of Christ was made from His side. He entered into a marriage covenant with His Bride, the Church, to which He remains faithful. This is the union married couples emulate. We see in this the great dignity of the married state and how the life and fulfillment of each spouse comes only through the dying to self of the other, and how this dying to self begins a new creation.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.