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Sunday Scriptures - 27th Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year B

By Father Donald Dilger
Father Donald Dilger


Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128:1-2, , 3, 4-5, 6; Hebrews 2:9-11; MARK 10:2-16 

The first reading is from the Book of Genesis. Within the Book of Genesis it is part of the second creation story. The first creation story is a hymn in which God creates all things out of nothing in six days and rests on the seventh. The sixth day in the creation hymn was reserved entirely for the creation of human kind together, male and female, and their commissioning as rulers or managers of God’s creation. On the seventh day of the hymn God rests, thus giving rise to humankind’s sanctification of the Sabbath or Shabbat, which means “rest.” The author(s) of Genesis then moves on to a second creation story, not a hymn but a narrative. In this second story of creation The Man is created first. After bringing The Man to life through the divine breath, here imagined as a kind of respiration through The Man’s nose, God plants a garden in Eden, “in the East.” A garden must have vegetation, so God makes trees and plants grow out of the ground. As Pope Benedict XVI noted, the creation stories already imply evolution.                 

The Man’s job description in the garden, “to till it and keep it.” But the Lord God notices that something is amiss. “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.”

The word used for helper has for some been the source of relegating The Woman to a secondary status subject to The Man. Correctly translated, however, the Hebrew noun means “enabler.” Genesis uses the same noun to describe God, yet no one has suggested that God is therefore secondary to or subject to The Man. Before the creation of Woman, the Lord creates all the animals. The Man’s dominion over the animals is expressed by having The Man name each of the animals. Still no Enabler! The Lord God becomes the first surgeon, anesthetizing The Man, removing a rib, and forming a woman around it, thus establishing the curvature of the female form.  What is the meaning of all this? It expresses the bond between The Man and his Enabler, a bond of equality before God. They belong together. The Hebrew nouns for man and woman express this, Ish and Isha. Works also in English, Man and Woman. Better expressed by the final words in the first reading, “That is why a man leaves father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” 

The Responsorial Psalm (128) sings of the result of The Man and The Woman becoming one flesh. “Your wife shall be alike a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home, your children like olive plants around your table.”  Such is the blessing, says the Psalmist of the man who fears

(reveres) the Lord. Next the Psalmist envisions expansion of the “fruitful vine” and “the olive plants,” “May you see your children’s children.” The people’s response goes beyond the blessings of family life to a blessing on life in general, “May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.” 

The second reading, as usual on Ordinary Sundays, differs in theme from the first reading and the gospel reading. This one is from the Letter to the Hebrews. The unknown author of this letter writes sometime within the last two decades of the first Christian century. The letter is probably addressed to a Christian congregation in Rome. The recipients are on the point of considering the Son and the revelation brought through him inferior to the angels who were thought to have mediated the revelation of the Old Testament. That is why the author of Hebrews says that “only for a little while,” (in his still unglorified humanity), “he was made lower than the angels.” They seem to have based their idea on the lowliness of Jesus’ suffering humanity, but the author pro-claims the appropriateness of perfecting “the Leader of our salvation through suffering.”

This Sunday’s gospel reading has two parts. The first part is Mark’s instruction on divorce and remarriage. The second part is an instruction on children. Mark begins, “The Pharisees…asked Jesus, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’” Jesus counters with a question, “What did Moses command you?” Their reply, that Moses permitted divorce, is based on Deut. 24:1-4, “When a man marries a woman, if she finds no favor in his eyes because of some indecency he found in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce….” In the context of Deuteronomy, this law dealt with a man divorcing his former wife and remarrying her. Like our own laws, the laws of the Torah were open to interpretation. Generally speaking, conservative scribes restricted divorce to cases of adultery. For progressive scribes, divorce was allowed even if she spoiled a dish for him. Yet both relied on a clause in Deut. 24, “because of some indecency he found in her.” 

The Marcan Jesus allows no loopholes for divorce. Mark instructs as follows: God allowed divorce because of the hardness of his people’s hearts, but then reverts to God’s original plan,

“What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus’s disciples are puzzled, since divorce was common, but the Marcan Jesus insists that remarriage after divorce is adultery. Mark’s instruction on this matter is not the only instruction. Both Paul and Matthew cite at least some causes for divorce. Although the Church does not grant divorces, she does lean toward the Pauline or Matthean view and deals mercifully with couples who are caught in impossible situat- ions by finding bases for annulments, leaving the spouses free to remarry. Perhaps Mark’s brief story about Jesus and the children is intended by him to hint at a loophole, not “because of the hardness of their hearts,” but “because of the children.” Though the story of Jesus and the children is used theologically to legitimize the baptism of children, could it also be used as an additional factor in dealing mercifully, at least in the conscience of couples, in impossible situations? Can we say with St. Paul when treating of a different, though difficult marriage situation, “…in such a case the brother or sister is not bound, for God has called us to peace?”