First Reading (Genesis 2: 18-24)
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 formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man. 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 body.
Refrain: May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
1) Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored.(Refrain)
2) Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home;
your children like olive plants around your table. (Refrain)
3) Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. (Refrain)
4) May you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel! (Refrain)
Second Reading (Hebrews 2: 9-11)
Brothers and sisters: He "for a little while" was made "lower than the angels, " that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 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.”
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.
Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.]
Secretary to St. Peter: The Gospel of Mark, by Dr. Donald Strobe, pp. 146-161. Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN. 37922.
Days of the Lord, Volume 5, pp.244-255. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1993.
The Gospel of Mark, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY 1975.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1975.
The Cultural World of Jesus, by John J. Pilch, pp.145-147. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. 1996.
The Word Encountered, by John F. Kavanaugh, pp. 108-111. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 1996.
Mark, by Wilfrid Harrington, pp. 150-156. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Mn. 1979.
Catechism: #1602-1617 (Marriage in the plan of God); 1643-1654 (the demands of conjugal love); and 369-373 (male and female God created them). United States Catholic Conference, Washington, D.C.: 1994. [As recommended by: A Homily Sourcebook (The Universal Catechism), by N. Abeyasingha. The Pastoral Press, Washington, D.C.: 1993.]
A Marriage That Lasts Forever
Marriage. Now there's a topic that has provided much fodder for the one-liners of many a stand-up comic. For example, what's the difference between a husband and a cat? One is a finicky eater who couldn't care less if you lived or died; the other is a house pet. Or: do you know what it means to come home to a man who'll give you a little love, a little affection or a little tenderness? It means you're in the wrong house, that's what it means. (1)
Unfortunately, in our gospel reading, our Lord is dealing with a serious question about divorce which was posed by a group of pharisees eager to trip him up. He responds to them by quoting the last verse of the first reading from Genesis. Divorce was never intended to be a part of God's plan. Actually, one would expect that having to emphasize the importance of marriage would hardly be necessary in a religion which professed belief in the One, True God. However, this was not the case. The Jews held women in low esteem. In essence, they were considered to be a husband's property with no legal rights whatsoever. Although the Jews were supposed to have a high ideal of marriage, a divorce was pathetically easy for a man to obtain. Under Jewish law, a husband could divorce his wife for any reason at all. Conversely, a wife could not seek a divorce from her husband under any circumstances. At the time of our Lord, the marriage bond was in serious trouble even among Jews, because Jewish girls were refusing to marry because a wife's position was so tenuous.
In many of the cultures of our Lord's time, marriage was an institution under siege. In fact they would probably have agreed with Mae West who once said "Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution yet." In the Greek world, prostitution had become commonplace; a husband expected his wife to run the home and to care for his legitimate children, but he found his pleasure and companionship elsewhere. In addition, there was no legal procedure for divorce. Therefore, home and family life were virtually extinct and fidelity to a spouse was non-existent. The situation in Roman culture was even worse, if that was possible. In a nutshell, both men and women changed spouses almost as often as they changed clothes. (2)
So in essence, the "foreverness" of the marriage bond as it was intended by God had all but disappeared. Does that mean that Jesus would have nothing to do with divorced persons? Not in the least. Read about his encounter with the woman at the well who had lived with several men, or the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. No one was more compassionate than Jesus. Our Lord knew about human weakness and frailty. He never met any one he could not forgive. Still, he took marriage seriously and that was something that was sorely missing in his time and which is still missing today. (3)
Divorce is probably as prevalent today as it was back in our Lord's time, if not more so. Between 1960 and 1990, the divorce rate for Americans more than doubled. Part of the problem perhaps is that most couples enter into marriage without truly believing that it is forever. "Ah, we can always get a Mexican divorce," they might say. Perhaps they believe that a good marriage will just happen or that it is "made in heaven". But actually good marriages are made through a lot of give-and-take here on earth.
- The story is told of one woman who accompanied her husband to the doctor for his physical. The doctor asked to speak with her privately before they left his office. "Your husband," the doctor said, "is under great stress and you must devote your life to caring for him. Don't argue or disagree with him. Get up early each morning and fix his favorite breakfast. Spend the morning cleaning the house, but have a nice lunch ready at noon, if he happens to come home. The afternoon you can spend on outside work, but make sure there's a special dinner waiting for him when he returns. You should spend the evening hours watching a game with him on TV, followed by romance if he is interested. This must be your schedule to help him through this." The wife left the doctor's office, got her husband from the waiting room and started to drive home. "Well," asked the husband, "what did the doctor say?" "He said," replied the wife, "that you're going to die." (4)
We have all probably known married couples who love one another so deeply that you could almost reach out and touch the love that passes between them. It is not an easy thing to attain. But what is it about their marriages which brings about that closeness? Well, if we could analyze those marriages, we would probably find three characteristics which they all have in common and which all begin with the letter "r". The first "r" is for "romance".
- Writer Robert Fulghum once interviewed Alexander Papaderos, director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete. In Crete the custom of arranged marriage continues to this day. Papaderos had stumbled over a concept he found in Western literature. It was the phrase, "Making love." It confused him. "What is making love?" he asked. Fulghum explained that making love was a popular euphemism for having sex. Papaderos replied that for Cretans, "making love" is a serious notion. When two families agree that a son and a daughter would suit one another, it is expected that over time the man and woman will work at becoming compatible partners in the same spirit one might work at achieving competence in a life's vocation. This is making love. Time and experience, mistakes and difficulties, are all part of the equation whose sum is a lasting relationship. Love is not something you fall into, Papaderos explained. Love and marriage are "made." Thus, in Cretan terms, when a married couple have been overheard arguing or fighting, the Cretans smile knowingly and say, "Ah, they are MAKING love." (5)
The point is that romance in marriage is something that we must work at to keep alive. A weekly dinner out, a walk on the beach, flowers at an unexpected time, virtually any special act of consideration will all help to contribute to the permanency of a marriage. So romance is the first "r".
Equally as important is the second "r": respect. We all cherish respect, especially from those we love. This is more true of women than men according to some. They found that the husbands tended to say that their marriages were great regardless of whether or not their wife gave them support and respect. However, when the women who said that they were happiest with their marriage were asked why, they responded that they felt that all of their emotional needs were being met, needs such as respect. We still live in a world that does not accord women the respect that it gives to men. Many women crave the feeling that their opinions really matter and that their spouse is willing to make the same kind of sacrifices for them that they make for their husbands.
- Debi Dietz Crawford, a Colorado elementary school teacher, received an unexpected wedding gift from her third-grade class: they wrote and illustrated a booklet of wise words on love entitled "Advice For a Happy Marriage", which is being released by a major publisher. One student advised in the booklet, "My advice is this: if there are two cupcakes and the man takes the one with NOT as much frosting, he loves you." (6) This advice is more profound than it may appear on the surface.
Some of us can remember mothers who would always put themselves last in line. If there was a cupcake that had less frosting, they would make certain that they got it, and that Dad got the one with the most. That is the model for womanhood that many of us have in our minds. Most women ARE willing to go the extra mile for the man they love; but how much more would they appreciate a man who respected them enough to be willing to do the same for them. "Let each one of you," says St. Paul, "love his wife AS himself..." Respect.
Romance, respect and the final "r": religion. Studies have confirmed that the strongest marriages are those in which religion plays a part. The divorce rate for couples who are actively involved in their church is minuscule compared to the divorce rate for those with no religious commitment. Or, put another way, you might say that the final "r" stands for a marriage that is "rooted in Jesus". Those marriages are the strongest where Jesus plays a major role.
- Some time ago, there was an article entitled "The Nut That Saved Our Marriage." Now you can't read a title like that and not wonder who that nut was. Perhaps it might be a husband who had a sense of humor that defused situations before they got explosive. Or perhaps it might be one of their children who did something funny to make the couple laugh when situations got tense. Or it might even be a friend who made them see how silly it was to focus on the bad points each had, when they both had so many good points. Well, the answer was none of the above. One day the author was having lunch with her husband and their son, Mike, at their Los Angeles home. Mike was a navy helicopter pilot who was visiting from San Diego. At one point during the lunch, Mike and his father began talking about the helicopter that Mike flew. Mike said: "You know, Dad, as complicated as that helicopter is, its whirling rotor is held in place by a single hexagonal nut." Then turning to his mother, Mike said, "And, Mom, do you know what they call that nut?" His mother shrugged. She had no idea. "I give up," she said, "What do they call the nut that holds it all together?" Mike smiled and said, "They call it the 'Jesus' nut." (7)
If our marriage is in trouble, maybe it's because we have forgotten about the nut that God destined to hold it together. Maybe we have forgotten about Jesus. Maybe we have left Jesus out. Maybe we haven't invited Jesus into our marriage. Our personal relationships with one another need to be rooted in Christ and the commands he has given us. "Love one another as yourself." How especially true for the one to whom we have committed our lives. Romance, respect and being "rooted" in Jesus. THE "recipe" for a successful marriage, a marriage that will last forever.
(Much of this homily was first posted on earlier this year relative to Ephesians 5: 25-32. However, that was also the last of five weeks when we were using pericopes from John's gospel on the bread of life. Lectionaries other than Roman Catholic were also using different readings from Ephesians on that Sunday. Therefore, I felt that this homily was well worth adapting and reusing for this gospel reading, especially given the subject matter of divorce. It is also a bit longer than most of mine, but I sincerely believed that it is all worth saying.)
1.From THE DUMB MEN JOKE BOOK, by Nan Tucket. New York: A Time Warner Company, 1992. (Quoted in "Motorcycles, Marriage and a Word From God". Dynamic Preaching, Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN. 37922. [Dynamic Preaching is modestly-priced subscription service ($55 by disk or in print) may be purchased through the Homiletic Resource Center or by clicking the link above. But I highly recommend it, if for nothing else than the great illustrations it contains every week!]
2. The Epistle to the Ephesians, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1975. [Please be aware that all of William Barclay's commentaries on the 17 books of the New Testament from the Daily Study Bible are available for $139.95 (list price is $289), while individual books are also available to complete your set for $11.95 each (list price is $16.95). Although I am an RC deacon, I find Barclay's commentaries to be a good down-to-earth beginning for my reflections (our differences in theology notwithstanding!!) and often use it to explain the text to my congregation.You can order them, and many other resources at a discount, by visiting the Homiletic Resource Center.]
3. From "Motorcycles, Marriage and a Word From God."
4. From THE JOKESMITH. (Quoted in "Motorcycles, Marriage and a Word From God".)
5. From Maybe (Maybe Not) by Robert Fulghum, pp. 172-173. (New York: Villard Books, 1993) (Quoted in "Marriages That Last", Dynamic Preaching, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN. 37922. [Dynamic Preaching is modestly-priced subscription service ($55 by disk or in print) may be purchased through the Homiletic Resource Center or by clicking the link above. But I highly recommend it, if for nothing else than the great illustrations it contains every week!]
6. "Almanac," Life Magazine, March 1997, p. 24.(Quoted in "Marriages That Last".)
7. The Nut That Saved Our Marriage, from Illustrated Sunday Homilies, copyright 1990 by Mark Link, SJ, pp. 37-38. Resources for Christian Living, Allen, TX. [This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center. For more information, please click on the title above.]
(Copyright 2015 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
October 3, 2021
Lord Jesus, you have taught us that a husband and wife are no longer two but one flesh. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you told us that what God has joined together, no one must separate. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you said that whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will not enter into it. Lord, have mercy.
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Celebrant: Our Lord has taught us that we should accept the kingdom of God as a little child. With childlike trust in God's care, we present our needs to the Father.
Deacon/Leader: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer".
That the leaders of the Church will be a sign of God's loving presence in the world to all who meet them, we pray to the Lord.
That all family members will learn to truly love and respect one another, we pray to the Lord.
That all those who are divorced, separated or widowed may find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
That God might teach us how to love, nurture and support every unborn child in her mother's womb, we pray to the Lord.
For a deepened awareness of the sanctity of life in all of its stages from conception to natural death, we pray to the Lord.
That God might bless all those who work to promote the Gospel of Life by prayer, by witness and by action, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the sight of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause.) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, through the Blood of your Son you have made us one family, your adopted children. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to grow in unity, love and peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.