Sunday Sermon for October 7, 2018, the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:2-9; Mk 10:2-16
When we consider the effects Original Sin has had on our souls by darkening our minds and weakening our wills, then with the enemy of our souls taking advantage of that situation, the result is downright terrifying. In today’s readings we are presented with two of the greatest blessings humanity possesses: marriage and children. In the first reading we see God creating the woman and establishing the institution of Holy Matrimony.
In the Nuptial Blessing at a wedding ceremony there is a beautiful line reminding us that marriage is the one gift which was not forfeited by Original Sin or washed away by the Flood. God established this gift for the good of the couple and to provide an environment of love, stability, and security as the proper place for raising children.
While marriage itself was not destroyed by Original Sin, the relationship of marriage was badly affected. In the third chapter of Genesis, we see how the relationship between husband and wife was turned upside down; now the man would lord it over the woman and the woman’s desire would be for her husband. The correct relationship, as reflected in the vows of Holy Matrimony, is founded on the love of two persons who are committed to serving one another as equals in a beautiful union of love. Children are the living, tangible sign of that love which is life giving for the couple and for their children.
As we read in the Gospel today, when Moses was writing the Book of Deuteronomy, people were seeking ways of getting out of their marriage commitment. In the twenty-fourth chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses allows a man to divorce his wife by giving her a bill of divorce. All that was necessary for a man was that he find some indecency in his wife. What might comprise this indecency was a topic of much discussion among the Rabbis of the following centuries. Vastly differing views existed: some suggested only adultery was a legitimate reason for writing a bill of divorce, while some suggested something as simple as burning the food for one’s meal was indecent enough to justify a divorce.
It is with this divergence in mind that the Pharisees approached Jesus to ask if a man could divorce his wife for any reason whatever. They wanted to know where our Lord stood theologically on this question. Jesus shocked them all by pointing to what God did in the beginning, when God put the man and the woman in the Garden and told the Pharisees what God has joined together, no human being can separate. Even with the effects of sin, Original Sin as well as our personal sins, Jesus tells us that being new creations in Him, we have the grace to live as God intended.
Even today, however, with all the grace a couple receives in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, a tendency still exists which gravitates against the union of marriage. With a divorce rate around 55% in America, one has to wonder what is happening to God’s great creation of marriage. This question is heightened when we consider that God entered into a type of marital relationship with Israel and now Jesus has entered into a marital union with His Church.
In the Letter of the Ephesians, St. Paul reminds us that the marriage of a man and a woman is a sign of the union of Christ and His Church. St. Paul also says husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Jesus did not run away when the Cross was presented to Him; He embraced it as the means to make His Church holy and without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. Since husband and wife are to be subject to one another, and since they both make a vow to love one another, both are to take up their cross for the sake of the other, to make the other holy.
In the second reading today, St. Paul points out the fittingness of our Lord’s suffering in bringing many to glory. His perfection is recognized in His suffering. For a married couple, it is only by the Cross, by the suffering entailed in marriage, that their love will be perfected and they will become Saints.
Without this, there is a repudiation of marriage because of selfishness. Since children are the fruit of love in a marriage, where there is not love there is often a repudiation of children as well. We see this today with contraception, abortion, abuse, and abandonment. Jesus rebuked His disciples when they tried to keep the children from coming to Him; He does the same today. We must repudiate whatever gravitates against marriage and family and live as God intended us to live from the beginning.
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.