3rd October, 2021

Bride and Groom
‘What God has united, man must not divide’

Homily for the XXVII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

As you may have noticed, almost all of today’s readings are quite difficult to understand, and in fact both the first reading and the Gospel actually tell us the same things, they tell us about the relationship between a man and a woman.

First, in the Book of Genesis, which is the first book of the Holy Scriptures, we heard a short and very mysterious passage describing the creation of a woman, which was shortly after the creation of man. I think we’ve listened to this particular passage many times, especially at wedding ceremonies, and indeed it is an appropriate, very deep and beautiful passage and obviously very suitable for weddings: It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate. – God said to himself. A little further on in the same reading, we heard about a very interesting reaction from the man who noticed something he had never seen before, something absolutely wonderful. He noticed a woman who – as we heard – made a great impression on him from the very beginning. The man exclaimed: This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh! This is to be called woman for this was taken from man. And the most important sentence of this reading which in a very beautiful and profound way shows us the essence of marriage: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.

I must admit that I personally find today’s Gospel much less enjoyable than the first reading, and I think it isn’t only my impression. I am pretty sure that none of us like to talk and hear about divorce, because it is a very controversial and perhaps even painful topic for many people who have experienced it personally. As you may know, the issue of divorce for many centuries and from the very beginning has aroused a lot of controversy, emotions and disputes, not only in the Catholic Church. We all remember the story of Henry VIII and his turbulent dispute with the Pope over his divorce. Also, in today’s Gospel, the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce: Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?

As we remember, Jesus didn’t answer that question the way they wanted him to answer as a lawyer or as an expert on Jewish law, and I think he didn’t do so for two reasons. Firstly, because Jesus knew their thoughts and intentions and He knew that they were testing him – as the Gospel says. So, in fact it wasn’t a sincere question. And the second thing, because He wanted to tell them something much deeper than just the Jewish law and the commandments given to them by Moses. Jesus answered them in the best possible way by reminding them of the essence of marriage that is mentioned in the Book of Genesis. From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then what God has united, man must not divide.

What struck me the most about what Jesus said to them? Let us see that He was not afraid of what people would say or think about Him and what their reaction would be. He didn’t even try to be ‘politically correct’. He was not afraid that he might lose his friends and all those people who followed Him and listened to his teachings with great attention because they liked and enjoyed it. He was not afraid to be too conservative, non-progressive or narrow-minded – as we say – but he courageously taught them what the essence of marriage and family is, defending the unity of both of them. Perhaps it is difficult for us to understand and accept this particular passage and this particular teaching of Jesus and also the unchanging and conservative teaching of the Church on marriage and family life. It might be very difficult especially today, when we live in a very modern and progressive world in which ‘freedom’ is the highest value.

But I think Jesus wants to tell us something very important also in the second part of the Gospel. This passage can also be very useful and helpful in understanding Jesus’ teaching about marriage: People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them. Let the little children come to me, do not stop them. What exactly is Jesus telling us in this passage? Undoubtedly, he wants to encourage us to care for little children. What’s more? I think in all of our discussions about marriage, family life, separation and divorce – it doesn’t matter if our views are more conservative or very liberal – we should focus our efforts and concerns on the little ones, asking ourselves: What can we do as a church community? What can I do as a member of this particular parish of St Edward’s to help and support these little ones who are most affected by family breakdowns, divorces and separations? I think this is something that Jesus encourages us to do in today’s Gospel instead of just telling us about the law, even if it is a very important law given by Moses himself. Jesus wants to tell us that our mission is to: protect, defend, support and do our best to bring these little ones to Jesus. Let the little children come to me, do not stop them – He says to as all.

Let us ask God – through the intercession of Our Lady, The Queen of the Holy Rosary – to give us His grace, wisdom and courage that – in all our discussions and conversations – we would be able to defend the sanctity of marriage and family, thinking more and supporting even more all those little ones who have been entrusted to our care. Amen.

Fr Gregory