Twenty Seventh Sunday in OT B 2018
On this first weekend of the month of October, we are celebrating respect life weekend. We are celebrating the dignity of every person God has created. We are all made in the image and likeness of God. From the first moment of conception till the day we are placed in the grave, each person’s life is to be respected and is very much deserving of our love.
In the first scripture reading from the Book of Genesis, the Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” God has created us for relationship. The need for companionship is basic and God-given in each of us. We become our best selves in loving and sharing and giving with each another. We are made for each other. God created us to share life and life in all its abundance.
Simply put, no person was made to be an island, in isolation from community. Through God’s eyes, humanity is complete in partnership and in love. We are better together.
This past Wednesday, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass with the children and their families in our Wednesday Evening Faith Formation at St. Joseph’s. I asked our precious children why they thought God said: “It is not good for man to be alone.” They responded so beautifully and honestly: One said: “We need friends”….another “I love my mom and dad and brothers and sisters”….Another said: “It would be so boring.” Another said: “Jesus wants us to love one another.”
Even at a young age, maybe especially at their age, children know they are safe and very much loved in their family. They know they are their best selves when they are kind, when they have friends, and when they love others.
The need for partnership and companionship and love is best expressed most beautifully in the marriage vows: “I, John, take you, Mary, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
Marriage is part of God’s loving plan of salvation.
In the Gospel, the Pharisees asked Jesus: “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” The Gospel brings us the D – word – Divorce. Divorce is more common in our community and in our country than we would like. Today’s Gospel begins with the painful description of what happens when love is wounded beyond healing; when bonds are fragmented beyond repair. We live in a time when divorce is common and acceptable in most countries and cultures.
Jesus, the great teacher, goes back to God’s original plan of creation. God has created us to be in relationship. When the examiners of Jesus brought up the question of divorce, Jesus turned it into a discussion of the dignity of each person and the fact that human beings are made for loving one another as truly as we are made to love God.
In his interchange with the Pharisees, Jesus went far beyond the question of divorce to teach about the meaning of human relationship in general. Jesus went beyond the legality of the law. He called people to discern God’s will as that which promotes life-giving relationships in each and every situation.
Marriage is a school of love and forgiveness. When two people get married they bring with them to their marriage normal human weaknesses and discover weakness in the other which previously they did not know. In the sacrament of marriage, it is not just two people coming together in love; the sacrament of marriage unites the couple with Jesus and brings them God’s blessing.
The faithfulness of God to this couple is lived out in the sacrament of marriage. God is always faithful to us his people. God is always faithful to the Church.
How are parishioners of the Holy Spirit who are divorced hearing this Gospel message today? Are they welcome in our parish community? Do they experience God’s merciful and forgiving love in their lives? Yes, God’s plan for marriage is to be characterized by permanence and fidelity and openness to life? The original plan for marriage is clearly found in the marriage rite: “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
In the second Scripture reading, the sacred writer says that Jesus was made perfect through suffering. For us too, our relationship with Jesus is deepened through the sufferings we experience. The cross, suffering in our life is part of our sharing in the paschal mystery of the Lord. We are to die to ourselves so that we may live more fully in the life of Christ. Regrettably, when a married relationship is moving farther and farther apart even leading to divorce, the suffering experienced can lead a person to experience the merciful love and forgiveness of Jesus in a new way.
As we celebrate respect life this weekend, may we respect the life and the dignity of all those who have experienced the pain and suffering of divorce. The beauty of our respect life theme is that people most in need – for those who are divorced and those who have experienced brokenness in relationship – are people whom the Lord welcomes and forgives and desires them to be reconciled to the God who desires reconciliation with one and all.
The respect life theme is also demonstrated in the second part of today’s Gospel. Jesus said: “let the little children come to me: do not try to stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”
Sometimes at our church services little children distract us: they make noise and make comments. But they are teaching us a precious lesson that if we do not feel at home with them we can never enter into the presence of God.
Jesus welcomes the little children to come to me. We the Church of the Holy Spirit seek to welcome little children. In fact, if we are not comfortable with children in our Church, to that degree we are depriving ourselves of experiencing the kingdom of God in our midst.
Have a Blessed Day.