Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 7, 2018)

Jesus’ words today may not be easy to listen to; they can make us uncomfortable. It’s important to hear his words in the context in which they were spoken.

Jesus is responding to a hostile question about divorce. Jesus responds to their question by explaining to them God’s plan for marriage. He invites his listeners to consider the creation story in Genesis.

God formed the woman directly from the man, not from the ground as he had made other creatures. Woman is created as a suitable partner for the man. She is the mirror of the man’s very being. The man recognizes their intimate relationship when he acknowledges the woman as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

The author offers this acknowledgement of their intimate relationship by creation as the reason for the sacredness of marriage. The relationship of husband and wife in marriage

becomes a concrete realization of God’s plan for creation. As Jesus comments: “They are no longer two but one flesh.” And so he adds: “Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus’ words are not spoken in judgment. They are meant to explain the place of marriage in God’s plan of salvation.

Perhaps this can help us understand why the Church places such emphasis on preparing couples for the sacrament of marriage. The Church wants couples to look more deeply at the sacredness of their relationship. Christian marriage is much more than the legal union of the secular world around us. The Church would like couples to think beyond their feelings of love and discern whether or not God has brought them together as “suitable partners.”

Are they willing to recognize that they are graced by God for each other? Are they willing to work with each other and with grace each day to become “one flesh”? For the Christian, marriage is a way of being holy together, not just a sanctioned way of living together.

Jesus is presenting us with the ideal for married love. He knows our limitations as human beings so he promises married couples the grace they will need each day to work patiently with each other toward that ideal. He is also compassionate and accepting of us when we fail.

During this Eucharist, let us pray for all married couples: for those who find joy in becoming “one flesh,” for those who struggle in their efforts to be faithful, for those who have been hurt and betrayed by their partners.

Let us pray too for those considering marriage. May they have the patience, wisdom and courage to seek “a suitable partner” made for them by God, with whom they can work to become “one flesh.”