Oct. 6, 2018

TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 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.