27th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Marriage According To God’s Will and Plan”.
The first reading and the Gospel are about marriage and present the original plan of God. Why has he made us male and female? What was his purpose?
The second reading could be linked to this theme. Jesus in his humanity is a person like us, and he understands all our difficulties in regard to sexuality. Christians have the duty to show understanding and give guidance to couples who are in difficulty.
The teachings of today should be such that the participants will understand how the indissolubility of marriage, monogamy and chastity are not difficult and unreasonable impositions of God, but a means to defend and protect the dignity of man and of woman and to make them happy.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
The Book of Genesis has two stories of creation. In the first creation story in chapter 1 of Genesis, man and woman are created simultaneously, in the image and likeness of God. That story emphasized how much the first people were ‘one’ with God, alike to God in a way that was tangible as well as functional. They carried the divine image and the mandate to co-create the world through human history.
The second creation story is in chapter 2 of which we hear in today’s first reading is about how the first people were one with each other. They shared flesh and bone, were made for the purpose of companionship and partnership. The plan was beautiful but like the garden itself, it was not invulnerable to sin.
To relieve man’s loneliness, God begins work at creating a helper. Then there is the striking and comical image of God creating all the beasts and the birds, which he brings to man to see if he will name any of them ‘helper’. There is a long procession of candidates for the position: man gives names to them all, but none is named ‘helper’. After all this interaction, man is still alone. Clearly, God has more wonderful plans for humanity, plans to curb man’s loneliness forever.
So the Lord makes the man fall into a deep sleep and then takes something from him. What is taken is enclosed in flesh to become a new creation, a woman. The original man makes for two creatures: an individual man and an individual woman. When God brings the woman to the man, this time there is success as the man exclaims, “At last…” The text adds: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body. These verses have been chosen for this Sunday’s first reading because their conclusion is quoted by Jesus in the Gospel (Mk 10:2-16) as he disputes with the Pharisees about the permissibility of divorce. Man and woman are not really two beings, Jesus says, but God makes them one in the Sacrament of Marriage.
In Jesus’ time, as well in the time that the material that became Genesis was written, divorce was simple and easy. For practically any reason whatsoever, a man could dismiss his wife and marry another. A woman did not count for very much. She was easily replaceable. Both Genesis and Jesus teach that such an attitude is unacceptable to the Lord. Women were not to be looked upon as throw-away convenience products. They were of the same nature, the same dignity, and the same worth as men. Once they were joined in marriage they were indivisibly one.
Still today, in many parts of the world, women are looked upon as property, to be disposed of when they no longer seem useful. In the Church, as well in the society in which we live, women have not always been given the respect that the word of Scripture seems to demand for them. This suggests that the teaching of this Sunday’s readings is not only relevant to our time and our culture, but is absolutely essential if we are going to live according to the will of God.
This Wisdom Psalm is a picture of a devout family that God has blessed. In the Christian context it is an ideal picture of the Church united to Christ its spouse, with the faithful as children around the Eucharistic table. But the integrity of the Christian family, which is threatened today, must first be defended before this ideal Church as family can be created.
Jesus ‘tasted death’ for our sake. We tremble at the thought of our death, but Jesus took it on in order to know our humanity completely. We shrink from mortality, but the one who did not have to die chose to die so that we would not walk there alone.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that we have become, along with Jesus, the children of ‘One’ loving God. Jesus ‘is not ashamed’ to be our brother, but chooses to welcome us into his holy family. For Jesus to desire such close kinship with us is nothing less than amazing.
More Catholics have been lost over the matter of divorce than just about any other issue. Jesus is clear about his stand, derived from Genesis. But both the teachings of Moses and the actions of the Church have sometimes wavered on this issue. Jesus says two lives joined by God cannot be taken apart. Yet we stand by and watch marriages crumble each and every day.
Although the Book of Deuteronomy allows divorce there were many ways of interpreting it. The woman was always at a disadvantage and at the mercy of the man. Jesus’ rejection of divorce obliges the Pharisees to go beyond the literal interpretation of the law to the spirit of the law. The Pharisees use the Law of Moses to put Jesus to the test. The law allows divorce and yet Jesus forbids it.
What was the purpose of the law? The law exists for the good of persons, not the other way around (Mk. 2:17). The law is God’s law and therefore must be interpreted according to the intentions of God. The aim of the law is to help people to live their covenant with God to the full. This is why Jesus takes us right back to creation to what was God’s original plan with regard to marriage. The original intention of the Creator is expressed in the creation stories in Genesis Chapters 1-2. Here both man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God. They have a mutual longing for each other, which leads to a decision to leave their parents and commit their lives to each other forever. This implies that there can be no question of the man deciding to send the woman away. Once they have been united by God in marriage, the marriage is indissoluble.
The law forbade priests to marry a divorced woman (Lev. 21:7), although other people could. This was to show the indissoluble character of marriage for those closely associated with the service of God. Now, in the time of the Messiah, this close association with God was not reserved to the few, but was open to all. Consequently, the challenge to live indissoluble marriages is for all. Jesus rehabilitates the position of women, who had become vulnerable under the Law of Dt. 24:1-4. Women have the right to be respected in marriage and must not be treated as an object acquired and disposed of at will. The message of Jesus remains a challenge for all Christians. We sadly seem to follow ways that often lead to the disintegration of marriage and family life.
The Catholic Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage is anchored squarely on Christ’s teaching: Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another; commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband also commits adultery. (Luke 16:18). A valid marriage however cannot be dissolved. As Christ said, “They are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” The Pharisees said to Jesus, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And so I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32).
Some argue that the phrase “except for unchastity” constitutes an ‘exception clause’ that allows for divorce and remarriage in cases where one or both spouses commit adultery. But this is a misreading of the text! The Greek word here for unchastity, ‘porneia’, refers to sexual unlawfulness in which two so-called ‘spouses’ are not ‘validly married’ though they live as if they were. You can’t get divorced if you were not validly married in the first place. Our legal system refers to a couple who have lived together for a number of years and had not legally married – “a common law husband or wife of an accumulated estate whilst living together.”
This casual ‘union’ recognised by the state is not recognised by the Church. This unchaste behaviour of premarital sexual relations is an on-going act of fornication, which falls under the sin of adultery and is a ‘Mortal’ sin. A union based on the latter values without total commitment and love is not in accordance with God’s plan or will, can never have his blessings. In a world, which bases its values on pride, selfishness, lust and materialism, we need God’s graces and blessings of gratuitous love, which forgives all to make our marriage work.
Let us live our marriage according to God’s will and his plan.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … The first reading tells us that God created man and woman equal in order to compliment each other as partners in our families and our communities. Do we treat each other as equals? Do we see today’s teaching as counter-cultural?
Mon. … God instituted marriage and family life. Today marriage is being threatened by rapid changes taking place in our modern, but permissive, society. As Christians we need to carefully protect this sacrament and covenant so that marriage will survive and fulfil the purpose according to God’s plan.
Tues. … Both Genesis and the Gospel teach that the breaking up of a legal marriage and the final separation in divorce is unacceptable to the Lord. Women and men are not to be looked upon as throwaway mistakes to be exchanged for new partners. Once God joins man and woman in marriage, they become indivisibly ‘one’.
Wed. … The author of Hebrews tells us that through Christ, who chose to die for each one of us, so that we may be redeemed and be joined to the family of God as his brothers and sisters and as the children of the one loving Father. Jesus’ desire for a close family kinship is something we all need to put into practice.
Thurs. … Like the Pharisees, we often get stuck on the literal interpretation of the Law of Moses. Moses in fact did not give any permission to divorce; he simply tried to formulate some rules in order to control a wrongful habit, which was reprehensible to the Lord. The law that Moses introduced was to protect women from abuse and the writ gave the women their freedom.
Frid. … The aim of all of God’s Laws is to help people to live their lives to the full whilst respecting each other’s rights, person and property and to live in peace, harmony and love. In a Christian marriage husband and wife make promises and commitments to each other in the form of vows in the presence of God. Man and woman are thus joined to one another in a covenant with God, co-operating with God in bringing his creation plan to fulfillment by committing their lives to each other forever.
Sat. … Again Jesus presents children as the models of childlike trust for his disciples and us to follow and to let go of our personal desires and wishes, to die to self, to follow the plan and the will of the Father. Will the kingdom of God belong to us if we fail to accept its values?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that all married couples who are joined together in Christian marriage will recognize the responsibilities and the commitments they are making in Your Holy Presence. We give You thanks and praise for changing the meaning of our lives with Your creative love in the sacrament of marriage. Help us to live our marriage according to Your will and Your plan.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.