27 Sunday B
Genesis 2:18-24; Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16
In our reading from Genesis and in our Gospel passage today we delve into the sacrament of matrimony. We learn that from the beginning man searched out his counterpart, woman, to join together in a fruitful relationship. Adam, the first man, given all that he could want in the Garden of Eden, and even given the privilege to have dominion over, and to name, each creature. Yet this was not enough, he was lonely. So “The LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." 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, 'for out of 'her man’ this one has been taken. "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh. “
Yet after the expulsion from the Garden mankind became cold of heart and began to stop sharing completely with their spouses, so Moses allowed divorce. But when Jesus walked among us he transformed marriage from a natural act to a Sacrament and abolished the concession Moses had made toward mankind’s tendency to break God’s Law. Jesus told us that as His followers we must live up to the standards set in the Garden of Eden and forbid second marriages. This teaching was not any easier now than it was then. In fact, the second Jesus uttered these words “In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.” Jesus boldly gave them an answer, even if it was hard to hear, and told them "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
But let’s be honest with each other. A staggering amount of professed Catholics either struggle with or outright disobey the Church’s teachings on marriage. We find premarital cohabitation and relations, birth control usage, permanent partnership instead of marriage, homosexual relations, civil marriage outside the church and divorce and civil remarriage all being embraced by Catholics.
How did we get here? How did this happen in our Church? Pope Francis addressed these issues while speaking to the US Bishops at the World Meeting of Families last week. The Holy Father, noting this problem said “Until recently, we lived in a social context where the similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared. The two were interrelated and mutually supportive. This is no longer the case…Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond with anything or anyone, not to trust. The most important thing nowadays seems to be follow the latest trend or activity. This is even true of religion. Today consumption seems to determine what is important. Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming… Whatever the cost or consequences. Social bonds are a mere “means” for the satisfaction of “my needs”. The important thing is no longer our neighbor, with his or her familiar face, story and personality…Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society? Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world? No, I do not think that this is the way. As shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we are asked to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time…We would be mistaken, however, to see this “culture” of the present world as mere indifference towards marriage and the family, as pure and simple selfishness. Are today’s young people hopelessly timid, weak, inconsistent? We must not fall into this trap. Many young people, in the context of this culture of discouragement, have yielded to a form of unconscious acquiescence. They are afraid, deep down, paralyzed before the beautiful, noble and truly necessary challenges…” (Pope Francis, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Chapel of Saint Martin, Philadelphia, Sunday, 27 September 2015)
In this culture our young Catholics, and even those who grew up in the Church, tend to embrace all these problematic acts the Church knows to be sins because they are told by their culture that the ideal of marriage and chastity that we put forth is unrealistic, unattainable. They are told by the Western elite that Catholic morality is for simple minded folk, for bigots, for the uneducated.
So, as priest, what am I to do? Do I bang on the pulpit and scream? Do I tell people to take notes? Do I refuse to marry everyone that comes to me unless they complete a 2 year course? Pope Francis answered in the same speech: “A Christianity which “does” little in practice, while incessantly “explaining” its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced. I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle… We are not speaking about some romantic dream: … Families transform the world and history. A pastor serenely yet passionately proclaims the word of God. He encourages believers to aim high. He will enable his brothers and sisters to hear and experience God’s promise, which can expand their experience of motherhood and fatherhood within the horizon of a new “familiarity” with God.” (ibid.)
So how to do this? Well, I need your help. We need to show people with our loves that morality that Jesus proclaimed, that the sacrament of matrimony is a gift, not a burden. Those of us here who are single need to be willing to open up to other single people and share with them that it possible and even fulfilling to live chastely in that state. Those of us who are married need to be honest with those contemplating marriage and those who are married. If we are open with them about the real work of marriage, the joys and challenges of parenting, the changes that we go through in our lives and how we stay together through it all…if we invite them into our homes and share with them, they can see that the teachings of the Church can work in reality.
Help me teach others about the joys, struggles, blessings and hard work that comes with marriage and single life. When we as a parish become generous enough to share these experiences, we can help our young Catholics and fallen away Catholics to see past the lies of our culture and into rich life that comes with living in relationship in accord with God.