Sundays of Ordinary Time, B

Nov. 10, 2018

Readings: 1st- 1 Kgs. 17:10-16; 2nd- Heb. 9:24-28; Gospel- Mk. 12:38-44

THE WIDOW’S MITE VERSUS OUR HUMAN MIGHT (different spelling)

The readings of today furnish us with images of two widows in the Bible- the widow of Zarephath in the Old Testament and the widow of the gospel. Both widows highlight some aspects of our human and societal living: total reliance on God and recognition of those at the margins. 

Elijah, the prophet, visits the widow of Zarephath. Zarephath is an idolatrous, economically prosperous city which at the time was experiencing famine as a result of drought. This widow depicts almost all the impossibilities of human existence and livelihood. She has just little to live on. There’s famine in the land. Elijah requests for something to eat. The woman is willing to give him something, yet worries about her future because she has nothing to offer. To prove herself, she swears using Elijah’s God: “As the Lord, your God lives, I have nothing baked, there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug” (1 Kgs. 17:12). What’s this widow’s plan? Practically nothing, just wait for death. After eating their last reserve, they die of hunger. This woman is facing an extreme situation in the human sense. She’s living on the margins of the society. Elijah is aware of her situation (Read 1Kgs. 17:1-9). He provides hope for her with the words, “Do not be afraid.” Still the widow gives her last despite her apparent hopeless situation. The result is this: her jar of flour does not go empty; her jar of oil does not run dry.

In the gospel, we see a similar situation. Jesus compares two classes of individuals in the society: the rich Scribes who go around in long robes and the poor widow. The rich show off in the market places. They take reserved seats at the synagogues and at banquets. They take advantage of the poor like widows and even pretend to offer prayers for them. They give their might. Then you have the poor persons represented by the widow who gives her mite. Why does Jesus sit down purposely to count the individuals who donate to the temple? We are not sure why he does that but we do know that Jesus is calling out the rich people in their attitude to display wealth and intimidate the poor. 

The major question here is, what is different between the poor widow’s offering and the rich people’s donations to the treasury? One might say that Jesus has always been biased against the rich in a general sense? The answer to that question is given in Jesus’ remark to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mk. 12:43-44). The big, rich donors donate from their might while the widow donate her mite, her livelihood. She empties herself. 

In the first place, it is ironic that the widow gives only “two small coins worth a few cents.” What difference does that make compared to the big donations that the rich are making? Isn’t that a reasonable question to ask? The disciples will also be wondering how two small coins make more impact than the big donations that are tangible. Jesus teaches us to notice the very insignificant things that the poor do. The immediate human reaction is to appreciate the big, to acknowledge the wealthy. The human reaction is to identify big donations. God identifies the small things done from a pure heart.

Second, the mind that gives is important. The rich who donate still have fortunes left. They donate out of their surplus probably with little impact on their wealth. The widow donates sacrificially, gives of herself. Her donation is about commitment. 

Third, the widow’s mite is an offering in faith. Like the widow of Zarephath, this widow gives with absolute dependence and trust in God. She’s not sure of what happens after her offering, yet she believes that something positive will happen. That’s faith. The rich people give to show off, to be noticed admired by the treasury keepers. They give to demonstrate their wealth. The widow gives to express generous support for God’s work. She depicts faith in God.

The widow’s offering today, offers us some lessons. We need to give not minding who’s watching. Sometimes we’re not acknowledged. That’s not important as to our genuine offering from the heart. The widow of Zarephath and her offering to Elijah reminds us that sometimes we might be entertaining angels without knowing. Remember Abraham’s case with the three visitors in the Old Testament (Gen. 18:1-15). Abraham gives to those people without knowing they’re angels from God. The widow of Zarephath gives to Elijah without knowing he’s a prophet sent by God. The word angel means messenger. Elijah is also an angel in that sense. Angels move in the form of human beings. Sometimes we entertain them without knowing. Giving generously attracts blessings from God. Let us be generous to those we meet. They may be the angels we entertain.

The widow of the gospel teaches us to give of ourselves. No strings attached. It is not about might but about mite, not about what is left but about what is given. It is about the heart that gives. In the US, for example, most people give because they expect tax deduction. That’s the attitude of the rich. Tax deductions get us payback from the government. It’s reasonable to get back deductions but the implication is that such donations become investment in a sense. The rich people who give to the treasury had such business mindset. They give for payback purposes. The widow gives without any human expectation. We have to be sacrificial in our donations. We have to donate in faith. 

Maybe the guys here need also to reflect on why women are presented as the standard of generosity as depicted in today’s readings. My thought is that it shows us the difference between religion in the head and religion in the heart. Most times, men rationalize faith while women emotionalize it. Whereas it is good to rationalize, it is more rewarding to be available for God without counting gains. In the case of donation towards God’s project, we need emotions. The payback comes from God. Elijah says, “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry.” That is faith, trust, total dependence on God’s ability to replenish the purse that gives. It transcends human reason which follows logic. The widow would have thought, “I would lack afterwards.” But God provides not in surplus. God appreciates our sacrifices not our display of wealth or power.

Nov. 4, 2018

HEAR, O ISRAEL!”

Readings: 1st- Deut. 6:2-6; 2nd- Heb. 7:23-28; Gospel- Mk. 12:28-34

The first reading and the gospel of today have great connections. Two things immediately stand out: The challenge to “LOVE” and to “HEAR!” In the first reading, Moses reminds the Israelites of the covenant relationship with God. The commandments of God are meant to be kept all the days of their lives. The Israelites are to observe them in order to prosper and grow in the land given to them by God. The mandate is to reciprocate God’s love since he has already shown the depth of his love by bringing them out of slavery and protecting them from their enemies. Hence, in return they are to love the Lord with full commitment. Only God (monotheism) shall they love and no other. But how can they keep God’s commandments? The key word is to “hear” what God has to say. The word “hear” is used strongly in those two verses; “Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them” (Deut. 6:3), and “Hear, O Israel!” (Deut. 6:4). Moses invites the people to hear (a word in Hebrew that means sema) that the one and only God should take precedence in their lives. They must love the Lord with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their strength. They are to take those words to heart, that’s what it means to hear.

The gospel presents the encounter between Christ and the Scribe. The young man puts a question to Jesus about which is the greatest commandment. Jesus’ first reaction is to refer him to the Old Testament passage which should be familiar to him as a Jew; “Hear, O Israel! The Lord your God is one Lord”. That’s the starting point. You can only know the Lord’s commandments when you hear them. In this case, Christ calls the young man’s attention to the main subject of the Christian life: Love of God your Creator and love of your neighbor as yourself. These are the greatest commandments.

While reflecting on this gospel passage, I notice the reaction of the young man while Jesus speaks to him. He is attentive. He recapitulates every word that Christ says using exactly Christ’s words. His approach is called “active listening and reflection.” That’s a strong skill which could be useful in every relationship. The Scribe tells Christ after listening, “You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” The Bible narrates that, “when Jesus saw that he answered with “understanding”, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” To answer with understanding means to able to listen. This young man is able to understand the words of Jesus and to take them in. He pays attention to Jesus’ words. 

Listening and hearing play a key role to our understanding of God’s will in our lives. They are necessary ingredients in every relationship including our relationship with God. Saint Paul calls our minds to the role of understanding when he says, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:8-9). But how can we believe and be saved? Paul goes further to tell us, “But it is in that way faith comes, from hearing, and that means hearing the word of Christ” (Rom.10:17). The young man who comes to Jesus listens and understands that to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength implies listening to God when he speaks. Listening to Jesus deepens his understanding of what he knows at the time.

How about loving your neighbor as yourself? Don’t we need listen to our neighbors? Let’s start right from our relationships. How many of us listen to our spouses, children, parents, and friends? How many of us listen actively without always attempting to complete the other person’s sentences when they speak to us? How can you hear the neighbor when she/he speaks? Practice what the Scribe does with Jesus; reflect back the person’s statements to him/her. It looks simple but it is an act that gives the other person the impression of your presence, undivided attention and compassion. Listening is an act of love. Say back those words to the individual. See if you can capture them as they’re said. Tell her, “I heard you say...”, “You are right in saying...”, I understand you to mean...” Try it in your relationships, don’t just jump in to say what you think or what is in your head. We need a society that listens. We need leaders that listen. We need politicians that listen. We need employers that listen. We need pastors and ministers that listen. We need lawyers that listen. We need teachers that listen. We need nurses that and doctors that listen. We need husbands/wives that listen. We need friends that listen. The more we listen, the more we love. On the contrary, the more you jump in to finish the statement for your wife, husband, friend, colleague, employer, employee, etc., the less the person feels heard, and the less appreciated.

My challenge for all of us today is a simple one. Scripture tells us today, “Listen/Hear O Israel! Can you suffix your name for Israel and say, “Listen O Vincent! Listen O Janet! Listen O Andrea!” Maybe you have not been listening, but you didn’t know that. That’s what I want you to do. Go home and listen to what your husband/wife, friend or your neighbor is telling you. First, hear what God tells you. Pay attention when he speaks. Sit and listen. Hear him and understand his will for you. The second is to listen to your neighbor as yourself. Find out what she/he needs. Reflect back to her/him and be sure you hear well. Show compassion. Show presence. Show support. Show empathy. Show love. The Psalm says, “I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly” (Ps. 85:8). The best way to show love is to listen. Let’s go home and listen. Through listening we get to the heart of the one who speaks.

 

 

 

Oct. 27, 2018

THE PRIEST AND THE PRAYER OF BARTIMAEUS

Readings: 1st- Jer. 31:7-9; 2nd- Heb. 5:1-6; Gospel- Mk. 10:46-52

We’re continuing our series on prayers this week. In the gospel (Mk. 10:46-52), Bartimaeus offers us a great example of prayer. Before we look at Bartimaeus’ prayer approach, let us take a quick glance at the high priest narrative as presented by the Letter to the Hebrews. 

The Jewish tradition placed strong emphasis on the priesthood. Right from the Old Testament, the role of the priest was emphasized. The high priest was a member of his community, chosen from the community to perform special role, to serve God on behalf of the people. The priest is therefore part of the community that prays. He occupies a middle-ground and intercedes for the people before God. But the priest is human, “he is taken from among men and made their representative before God” (Heb. 5:1).

One major function of the priest is to offer sacrifices for the expiation of sins. Because the priest is human, he carries in his body the weaknesses of every other human being. For this reason, the priest is to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of his sins as well as those of the people. Priests are called to recognize the need to seek God’s help to overcome their weakness.

The Hebrew writer highlights important dynamics of the priestly calling. “No one takes the honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was” (Heb. 5:4). Aaron is specifically called to the priestly office, different from the role of Moses in the Old Testament. God said to Moses, "From among the Israelites, summon your brother Aaron and his sons to be priests in my service: Aaron and Aaron's sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar." (Ex. 28:1) Aaron performed sacrifices on behalf of the Israelites while Moses provided the leadership. At one point, Moses approached Aaron with the request, “Come near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, that you may make atonement for yourself and for the people; then make the offering for the people, that you may make atonement for them, just as the LORD has commanded." (Lev. 9:7)

Christ is the high priest of the New Testament. He offers himself as the definitive sacrifice. Last Sunday’s reading reminded us that, “We have a great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God” (Heb. 4:14-15). Christ is the eternal high priest offers his body and blood for our salvation. He establishes the ministry of the priesthood at the Last Supper and invites priests to celebrate the mystery of his saving love for the people; “Do this in memory of me.” No one takes the honor of being priest on himself, not even the pope. Rather, the priesthood is a vocation. It is not just a career and not like any other job. The priesthood is no business. The priest offers himself as sacrifice. Then he represents the people before God and prays on their behalf.   

Christ the eternal high priest, encounters Bartimaeus in the gospel. He brings compassion and justice into the priesthood. Christ accepts the blind man despite the reaction of the crowd. He brings him out of the periphery and makes him a disciple. Christ put forward to Bartimaeus the same question he asked James and John, the sons of Zebedee, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk. 10:36-37). Jesus teaches the crowd that justice doesn’t depend on the reaction of the majority. He defends the dignity of Bartimaeus and his human right as a child of God and a member of the society. Jesus represents answered prayers.

 

The gospel of Mark tells us that Bartimaeus is a blind man who sits by the roadside begging. He hears that Jesus is passing his way. He cries out, shouting loudly, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” The physically able, strong and privileged try to shut him down. They rebuke him and command that he be silent. Bartimaeus wouldn’t listen to the voices that do not represent Jesus. He refuses to be distracted. He keeps calling out the more to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me.” The voice of the blind man is eventually heard by Jesus who invites the crowd to bring Bartimaeus to him. Bartimaeus throws away his cloak, breaks bonds with his inhibition, and springs up to Jesus. When asked what might be needs, he is very assertive and direct with his answer, “Master, I want to see” (Mk. 10:52).

What is the one factor in Bartimaeus’ action that we can emulate in our prayer life? The answer is that there will always be obstacles on our journey to reach God. The road to assessing God is not an easy one. Look at these: the crowds try to shut Bartimaeus down. Those who are enjoying the privilege of sight want to prevent him from reaching out to Jesus. They prefer him being a beggar. They scold him for daring to profess his faith and express his needs. They demand him to keep quiet. They intimidate him. But this blind man teaches us courage in the face of faith-opposition. This crowd in your case could be your family members that don’t do religion, who wouldn’t want you to express your faith. They intimidate you from praying. They’re unsettled when you mention the name Jesus in the house. They are uncomfortable that you even go to church. As a result, you become like someone at the periphery. Your voice seems so lonely and you feel powerless among your people. They simply want to stop you.

Bartimaeus is a great encouragement for you. Once Jesus encounters him, everything changes. “What do you want me to do for you?” is the great question. In a deeper sense, it demonstrates God’s concern for his people. God listens even in the midst of the turbulence and distractions. In the ensuing noise and opposition to our faith, God listens. His words are, “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Ex. 15:26). And that question comes directly to you, “What do you want me to do for you?” God wants to respond to your appeals and to your cry. Keep calling! Faith does not give in to distractions, challenges, and oppositions. Those cannot deter you. Go ahead and call on God. Faith is that inner vision of the ability of God to answer. It provides insight to God’s goodness and steadfastness. Remember what Christ told his disciples when he taught them perseverance in prayer, “"I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it to him for friendship's sake, persistence will make him get up and give his friend all he wants. 'So, I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened" (Lk. 11:8-10). 

 

 

 

Oct. 20, 2018

WHAT NOT TO ASK FOR

Readings: 1st- Isiah 53:10-11; 2nd- Heb. 4:14-16; Gospel- Mk. 10:35-45 

Did you see the request by the two sons of Zebedee in the gospel of today? Did that strike you as a form of prayer? Let’s assess the implications of James and John’s as presented by Mark. They come to Jesus and say to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mk. 10:35). Some bible version like the New Jerusalem bible put it this way, “Master, we want you to do us a favor.” Then Jesus says to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” (Mk. 10: 36). The theme of our parish preaching for our Total Discipleship campaign is prayer, and in the encounter between Jesus and the sons of Zebedee, we identify different aspects of prayer. The reactions of the other ten apostles towards James and John for making such an expensive request tell us how bad they feel towards them. The other apostles feel indignant with James and John. They feel bad that these two should make such a selfish request. Jesus condemns such, and reprimands the apostles against indignation and selfishness. He invites them to love and service. Our focus today is on the implications of James and John’s request in relation to what we ask for in prayer. Despite the fact that their request sparks off some controversies among the disciples, they present us with important lessons for our prayer life. I will divide this into two parts namely, the process of prayer and the content of prayer.

 

  1. Process of prayer: This refers to the steps taken by James and John to put forward their request before Jesus. Here, we consider the following:

Holy Boldness/courage:James and John manifest a bold attitude in their request. They move straight up to Jesus to ask for their needs. They consider their need important and so, go for it with conviction. As Christians, we need to be bold in our prayer life since courage eliminates fear in the spiritual journey. Several times, we’ve heard that prayer is part of our daily living. That means, we ought to pray as we undertake our daily tasks. We pray before meals, before sleeping, when we wake up, when we embark on a journey. We pray before starting a project, before commencing an important conversation. We pray in the course of interacting with others at work, etc. We need boldness to express our faith. If for instance, we say the Grace before meals at home, are we able to say the Grace before meals when we eat out or is the Grace before meals limited only to meals that we eat in our houses? We need courage to pray.

Intentionality:James and John are intentional about their needs. They identify it and make affirmative statements before Jesus, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Their intention is clear to Jesus because they know what they want. We must come to God with clear intentions in prayer. Although Jesus says, your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8), it is still proper to come to God with clear intentions in prayer. God loves it when we make affirmative statements, “I want you to do this for me,” “Grant me this favor,” etc. 

Recognition of God’s readiness to answer:This is clear with James and John. They step up to Jesus to present their request. This implies that they recognize that Jesus not only has the power to do what they ask of him, but is ready to answer. Prayer predicts God’s presence. It makes us rely on God. We must be convinced of God’s constant presence in our lives. To ask him means to believe in him. It means we have to eliminate all doubts in our request from God.

Listening for feedback:When James and John approach Jesus with their request, they wait for feedback from him. They wait for his response. They listen to Jesus speak. As we know, prayer is an interaction with God. It is privileged communication. The greatest challenge in this interaction becomes not our talking but mostly our ability to listen. It is always said that God gave us two ears and one mouth but the one mouth talks more frequently than the two ears do listen. But you know the ear is amazing. Recently, I got a beautiful image describing how the two ears form the shape of the heart when placed side by side each other. The artist who designed that image remarked, “the word ‘ear’ sits right in the middle of the word ‘heart’. That means, if you want someone’s heart, learn to listen to them. Also, if you want God’s heart, learn to listen to God.” It is in prayer that we hear God speak. I encourage you to learn to listen to God. He speaks.

 

  1. Content:The second aspect of the request of James and John is what I refer to as the 

content. What are they asking for? What do they want from God? This is where we find issues with their request, “Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory” (Mk. 10:37). Whereas there is nothing wrong with the process of their request, there is problem with the content. Their colleagues fault them. Jesus equally redirects their request by asking them the question, “Can you drink the cup that I shall drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I shall be baptized?” Jesus tries to purify the intentions of his disciples following the request from James and John. The content depicts selfishness and ambition. 

We can’t overemphasize the fact that God answers our prayers according to his will and in a manner that will yield us good. In the case of James and John, Jesus doesn’t say no outrightly. He teaches them what not to ask: don’t be selfish. Don’t be unnecessarily ambitious. Avoid prayers that will create division. Shun arrogance. Jesus educates the disciples, “No, anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all” (Mk. 10:44-45). Let us ask God to purify our intention when we pray. 

In the prayer example of James and John in today’s gospel, we see something of importance: what to ask for and what not to ask for in prayer. Jesus is available for us and invites us to make our request to our Father who hears us. Always be specific and assertive before God who is your Father. Be humble and submissive to his divine will in prayer. Ask for the spirit to serve. 

What do we not have to ask for?Anything depicts our selfish desires and ambitions. Don’t pray to wish away sufferings in the pursuit of glory. Don’t make requests that make others feel inferior. Never focus on power, or possession, those are not the way to greatness. 

Let’s call God our Father for help in our needs. He is waiting. He is asking us, “What do you wish me to do for you?” A good request receives positive and quick answer. A somewhat good request is redirected for better outcome. A bad request is taken care of by God. He listens.

Oct. 6, 2018

“THIS IS THE BONE OF MY BONES AND FLESH OF MY FLESH”

Readings: 1st- Gen. 2:18-24; 2nd- Heb. 2:9-11; Gospel- Mk. 10:2-16

Today’s readings bring up the issue of marriage, one of the oldest institutions that exist. The creation account takes us back to the intention of God for this beautiful institution. God recognized that the man would need a companion and decided to give him a “suitable partner”. In the garden of Eden, the man had all the animals to interact with. Scripture records, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” One message from this creation account is the priority which the human being occupies in God’s creative plan. God wanted man to be happy. He didn’t want man to be alone. The first step was to make him a “suitable partner”.

The second step in that creation account depicts man’s feelings in the midst of other animals in the garden. “The Lord God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them, whatever the man called each of them would be its name.” We recognize the cognitive aspect of the human being. God gave man the intellect to identify and to know the reason behind his actions. Man is given dominion over the creatures around him to name them but not to marry them. The dog wasn’t a suitable partner for man. The cat wasn’t his suitable partner. Not the cow. Man’s suitable partner was not any of the animals.

Then the big step, “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.” The creation of the woman was more ceremonious than the creation of the man. That’s the origin of marriage as recorded in the Scriptures, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). The man was excited at the sight of the woman. In her, he found a suitable partner. 

The creation account reminds us of God’s original intention for humanity. God created the man and the woman to form partnership. He expected them to be companions beyond any other. The man exclaimed at the sight of the woman, “This one at last is the bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). Such companionship is achieved in a supportive and nurturing relationship. The man and the woman complement each other in an equal dignity. God didn’t create the woman because the man was looking for a cleaner. Not because the man was in need of a secretary. Not because the man needed a cook. God created the woman to form a suitable partner for the man, something which no other creature could provide. 

The gospel demonstrates the defects of marriage seen in the Pharisees’ practice. They are already suffering from the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve. They introduce the issue of divorce, a rupture of the marriage institution. The fall injected into man the hardness of heart that allowed supported the man to divorce his wife at will. The Pharisees ask him about his position, whether it is lawful for the man to divorce his wife on any pretext. Christ recalls the Mosaic law to point out the defect in their understanding. The law of Moses permitted divorce. But God’s law is this, “In 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. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk. 10:6-11). This is the basis for the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Jesus takes us back to the beginning. What is God’s intention for marriage?

We recognize how tough marriage could be. We also appreciate those who stay single. It is a great vocation to offer oneself up to God in service of humanity. Obviously, marriage is a complex institution. It is not as simple as saying that God made them male and female in the beginning and so they remain. It is not as easy as to say that what God has joined together no human being must separate, and so it remains. If it is that simple, we would not be talking about the numerous challenges against this divine intention till today. 

The Church recognizes the challenges that couples face in marriage. She recommends pastoral support and encouragement. At first, the man (groom) exclaims like Adam, “Ahaa, this is the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh.” We witness such excitement at wedding ceremonies, dancing, celebration, jubilation. There is partying and entertainment because the man has found his companion. But marriage becomes sour after the wedding cake has faded away and the couples face the reality of their relationship. They become competitors. Gradually, they become enemies in the same house. They lose their emotional touch. They get entangled in the web of criticism, blaming, and attacking each other as if there was no wedding day. They let pressures accumulate to the point of thinking of alternative solutions to their differences. Little things become conflicting issues. The situation often degenerates to the point of thinking that divorce is the only solution. Hence couples decide to part ways. It’s hard.

Jesus tells us today that divorce is no solution. He was hard on the topic, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mk. 10: 11-12). Divorce is the exception of the marriage norm, and couples should not think about it as an option. It is not good for children either. I think Jesus foresaw that when he shifted gear to the presence of children in the discourse. He was indignant that his disciples rebuked children who were brought to him. Jesus recognizes the place of children in the family. He wants us to develop the heart of the child.

One challenge in today’s world about marriage is that new sexual theologies have arisen. These theologies identify marriage as just a relationship that is based on sexual satisfaction. They strip marriage of its spiritual content. That is what the Pharisees did. That’s why they sanctioned that the man has absolute right over the body of the wife. If he didn’t get that satisfaction, then he could send the wife away. Christ objects to such approach and calls us back to the origin. The “beginning” is God. 

The Church teaches that marriage is a sacrament. It unites couples in a loving, God-centered and community oriented relationship. Such relationship should be respectful, loving, accommodating, encouraging, and supportive. My challenge to couples here today is this: Please treat your partner with that excitement which we see in Adam. Treat your partner as your companion. Treat your partner as your best friend. Treat your partner with great care. Treat her as bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh. When you treat your partner with love, support, respect and affection; when you treat her as friend and companion, you get the best out of her. She talks with kindness. She responds with feelings. She serves with gladness. She approaches you with open mind. She welcomes you with smiles. She gives you the best sexual experience. And you build a happy home where children are welcomed with openness and joy. That is the only way that the grace of God becomes experienced in your relationship. That is the way to go, namely, God, who made them male and female from the beginning.