In our Gospel reading, the Pharisees (in another attempt to trip up Jesus?) ask Jesus if it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach about the sacredness of marriage, referring back to the book of Genesis in the Scriptures (which is our first reading): “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.” I see these words as the basis for much of what the Church teaches about marriage, and how it deals with marriages that are broken beyond repair.
For the past few years, I have also wondered whether we could look at Jesus’ words about no human being separating what God has joined together, and apply them to all relationships. Yes, there is a special bond of love and intimacy in a marriage, but God has not only joined husbands and wives together, God has joined us all together on this earth. And not only has God joined us human beings together, God has joined us with all of creation. We are not meant to be consumers of creation, but we are part of it and called to be caregivers of it.
Can we see each other, in the words of Adam in our reading from Genesis, as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” that is, as members of the same human race, as other beloved children of God? What is all this work of judging and condemning supposed to accomplish? Is it really the work of God? I think it is fair to say that marking one group of people as somehow superior to another has led to slavery, oppression, poverty, and even the sex abuse scandal in the Church.
Is it possible to be passionate about what we believe without completely separating ourselves from each other? As a Christian, my only answer is to follow Jesus, who somehow managed to speak the truth, go against the false divisions of His day, point out wrongdoing, and still love all people, even His enemies, to the point of forgiving them from the Cross.
Perhaps we can find a point of connection at the Cross. This is from our second reading from the letter to the Hebrews: “For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering. He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers [and sisters].’” Jesus is connected to us through suffering. And suffering is one important way we are connected to each other. There have been many people who have written about this. If we all know what it’s like to experience sorrow and loss, grief and pain, then why would we totally separate from each other? When we see people in distress after some natural disaster or some act of violence and terror, we often mourn with them, no matter where in the world they are. But if we decide to put people in some category of “them,” then the compassion seems to disappear. But if Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters, why are we ashamed to think that way about each other?
Another point of connection is our children. In our Gospel reading, Jesus rebukes the disciples who were trying to keep children from coming to Him: “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.” When we become like children with regards to having to rely on someone else, namely God, maybe our humility can help us look at each other differently. And maybe we can find some way to work together with all people of good faith in order to leave our world a better place for our children and for children to come.
Fr. Phil, CP