Saturday, 6 October 2018

GOSPEL Mark 10:2-16
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
"Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?"
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?"
They replied,
"Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her."
But Jesus told them,
"Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from 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.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate."
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery."

And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
"Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it."
Then he embraced them and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Would you try to climb the Himalayas with tennis shoes? No, but how often people in our world try to embark on the journey of marriage without being remotely equipped in the right way! In the Gospel this Sunday, the Scribes want to talk about how to escape from marriage once it has gone wrong. Jesus, instead, wants to return to the ultimate foundation of marriage, a matter of the heart. He takes a child, embraces it and places it in the centre of the discussion. We must first of all embrace Christ in a childlike way before we can embrace each other. The relationship with Jesus is the basis of the indissolubility of marriage and the eternity of all our other relationships. The problem is that we seek to undertake marriage on the basis of hormones or passions, but these come to an end all too quickly. If we try to found our relationships on the capabilities of our own flesh, then we will find that it is a very fragile foundation indeed. And if our marriage is in difficulty, then trying to straighten out some of its superficial features can only have very limited success. The solution to marriage problems is to return to the origin of marriage: God’s love for us, his forgiveness, and his call to us to love and forgive each other. This is the true source of the indissolubility of marriage.

The first reading recounts the creation of man and woman, with Eve being created from the side of Adam. The piercing of Jesus’ side on the cross recalls this event. Jesus gives birth to his body the Church by his self-giving on the cross.
The first reading recounts the marvellous creation of humanity. The Lord gives man and woman the gift of being bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, and of being united. Here we have the image of the flesh of man being opened in the place where the heart is located, the rib being taken from the side. This image will eventually become Christological with Jesus on the cross who makes us into the Church when his side is pierced. He gives us himself in this moment and we become one heart with him, one flesh, drinking his blood and becoming his body.

The Scribes merely want to know the rules for legitimately breaking up a marriage, but Jesus wants to talk about our hearts
This reading prepares us for the Gospel. The Scribes pose a question to Jesus on matrimony in order to put him in difficulty. The issue is not whether the man or woman love each other or not. Rather they want to know if divorce is admissible. This issue concerns an area in which man and woman are at their most vulnerable, when there is a rupture between them at their most intimate level. But the Scribes speak of the issue in a purely abstract form, referring to bills of divorce and dismissal. Jesus responds in a surprising way by speaking of the hardness of our hearts. These norms, he says, only came about because Moses had to deal with hearts of stone, hearts that were not moved by love. When love is absent then we must confine ourselves to taking about rules and regulations. What is left is something dry and without life.

The foundation of marriage is God’s love for us. A marriage that is built on human foundations is built on a very fragile basis indeed
Jesus asks us to return to the beginning, to the origin of things, and see with a different perspective. He can do this because he is taking humanity back to its original beauty, to the fulfilment of the original promise. Humanity falters, both in matrimony and in other endeavours, because it seeks to depend on its own strengths, its own abilities. When we look at the tragic state of matrimony in our world, we can justly ask, “How connected are our marriages with the original plan of God for man and woman?” Marriages that fail often begin from the wrong starting point. The original vision of God is not even remotely taken into consideration by the spouses before they embark on their life together. People present themselves for marriage without being properly equipped, like someone starting to climb the Himalayas with tennis shoes. Couples marry on the basis of hormonal impulses, on the basis of passions that come to an end so quickly! We are not talking here about trying to straighten out or fix marital problems but rather to return to the very origins of what marriage is about. It is not right to admit couples to the sacrament of marriage if they are disconnected from this fundamental reality. Marriage is a call from God and a work of God. When a couple marries, it must be because God is calling them to marry each other. If they are not confident of this, then on what basis can the marriage be built? How many opportunities they will have to fail! If the relationship is founded on their flesh alone, then it will not be sufficient because human flesh is weak.

If a marriage is in difficulty, then it must return to its ultimate foundation: the personal love of God for each of us
The Gospel continues with the story of the child who is welcomed and embraced by Jesus. A married couple must be embraced by Jesus from the very start. I must be embraced by Jesus if I am going to be able to embrace a spouse, embrace my mission. For what is true of marriage is also true of our mission as Christians in general. We need to take our point of departure from our personal relationship with Jesus and cultivate this intimate bond with him. When a married couple finds itself in crisis, then it must seek to begin again from this embrace with Christ, instead of seeking, solely, to adjust more superficial aspects of their relationship. It is only when a couple has been regenerated by the unconditional love of Christ, then the spouses can begin to love each other unconditionally. No one of us can bring to fruition that which the cross of Christ alone has achieved. Never let us forget that the indissolubility of marriage is a gift of the cross of Christ. It did not exist in Jewish culture, nor in the cultures of Greece or Rome. It is a gift of Christianity, but a gift that comes from his cross and resurrection, not some pretence regarding the innate capabilities of human nature. Man, by himself, is not capable of this indissolubility. We can try as hard as we can, but we will never succeed in a complete sense. This Sunday let us listen to the Gospel and become this child embraced by Christ. This is the origin and the foundation, that which was from the beginning, the source of our hope for building marriages and all other relationships. Indissolubility refers to the eternity of our relationships, the capacity to remain united because we have been forgiven, and to forgive each other in turn.

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