This week we are invited to think and pray about the institution of marriage. The First Reading from the Book of Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, is from the second narrative about creation. In the first creation account from Gn 1:1-2:4, God creates man, male and female, in the image of God on the sixth day. In contrast in the second creation story, from which this week’s passage comes, the creation from man and woman occurs sequentially. After creating man from earth, God acknowledges that man needs a suitable partner, and the living creatures of the earth and sky are formed. After none turn out to be a suitable partner, God forms woman from man. In this highly allegoric chronicle the concept of suitable partnership is mentioned twice. The emphasis on companionship and mutuality makes it clear that man and woman are made for each other. Any subordination read into the sequentiality of the creation is a mistake.
Often when priests preach about marriage, one may be reminded of the story about a middle aged woman who after one of such sermons said: “I wish I knew as little about marriage as he does”. Chuckles aside, we all know a lot about marriage, from experience and from observation. Each one of us exists because a man and a woman loved each other and brought us into the world. If we are among the lucky ones, they stuck together and took care of us. This may be a good proof point that marriage is very important. Yet, let’s face it, a great many people are not so sure anymore about the sanctity or even validity of marriage. Men and women keep falling in love and start living together, but, in increasing numbers, they feel no need to get married. Fifty years ago, that may have made the news, but not today. At some level it is understandable. Weddings are not only expensive, but risky. They not always turn out the way we hoped. Marriage has become quite unpopular in many quarters because it involves making promises. “For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part” sounds pretty daunting, doesn’t it? For many that is too risky. So they just live together and leave themselves a way out if things don’t go the way they hoped. On the surface is seems more prudent than making promises they might not be able to keep.
To such people the teachings in this week’s Gospel sound too idealistic. Many consider it rigid and unrealistic to insist that two people make binding promises to stay together through good and bad times, after the glow has faded. Lovers should be free, instead of being tied down, is their mantra. But freedom comes with a price, which the children (some of us later in life?) are paying. We have become a nation of single-parent families, with damaging impact to many of their children (higher school drop out rates, etc.) Such families are part of a national tragedy.
This week’s teachings from Genesis and Mark have unequivocal messages. They are not easy. They call for courage and sacrifice. The sacrament of matrimony is one of the seven visible symbols that point to and embody a spiritual reality. In the case of marriage it points to the spiritual reality of Jesus’ love for the church. The promise of each spouse to care for the other one implies a giving up of self. It is not anymore ‘me’ the most important entity in the universe, but the spouse. With this in mind, and considering Jesus sacrifice on the cross, it puts things into perspective when it comes to love for the spouse. The generous help of God’s grace to meet the challenges of a faithful life together can go a long way. And the benefits of a blessed life together in companionship are gigantic. From experience I can say, paraphrasing the passage from the Book of Genesis, that “it is not good for man to be alone”…, it is great to be with a suitable partner, the spouse!
The last passage of this week’s Gospel from Mark shows us one more, of the several scenes in the New Testament where the apostles are ‘not getting it’. In the best of the intent they shove away children, thinking that they have nothing to do with the ‘adult talk’ they are just having with the great teacher. Jesus ‘became indignant’ and a bit frustrated that his disciples had not realized that children and matrimony are two sides of the same coin. We could call it the coin of Gods creation at work. The moments between the beginning (the Alpha) and the ending (the Omega) of the world, is the procreation of the human race: Marriage and raising children! We know very little about the ‘book ends’ (beginning and end) but we are very present to the creation at work here and now. The final guidance for spiritual positioning of accepting the
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With God’s Love and Blessings,
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