27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
- · Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- · Joke of the Day
- · Today’s Gospel Reading
- · Gospel Reflection
- · Reflection Prayer
Today, I am be leading my first retreat. The retreat is for members of my Secular Franciscan (OFS) Fraternity, “Our Lady of Angels Fraternity”, St. Clare Region. The topic is “Franciscan Ministry”.
Starting with Mass at a Franciscan Monastery on the property of “Black Madonna Shrine” in Eureka, MO, we will spend the day in periods of prayer, song, Eucharistic Adoration, and healing. Interspersed between the sessions will be periods of exploring the various shrines made by hand – by ONE brother – with items at hand (rocks, pieces, of glass, buttons, and other “junk” he acquired), eating (always with Franciscans), and games.
I will let you know how it goes. I am a little nervous, but “Gods will be done”!!
On Wednesday evening, Franciscan in my area are celebrated the “Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi”. The Transitus is a Franciscan devotion of ritually remembering the passing of Saint Francis from this life into God’s heavenly kingdom. Each year, this ritual always takes place on the evening of October 3rd, the date of St. Francis’ earthly death.
We ritually revisit the life-story of Saint Francis’ journey from this existence to the next, in the paradise of heaven. This remembrance is vital to ALL Franciscans. Without revisiting St. Francis’ life – – his existence – – something significant to us would be missing, in this materialistic world.
The Transitus ritual identifies the living memory of Saint Francis, exposing St. Francis’ love for God and ALL to our hearts, minds, and souls. The Transitus deepens and strengthens our individual and collective commitment to follow Christ in the way of the happy poor man of Assisi.
Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches about divorce and about welcoming the children into life. Both, marriage and children are to be welcomed. Now, you are ready to take a faith journey: being the spouse, child, and siblings – of ALL others!!
(NAB Mark 10:2-16) 2 The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. 3 He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” 5 But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” 13 And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 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. 15 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child* will not enter it.” 16 Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
For the past three Sundays, we have been reading about conversations between Jesus and His disciples. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus uses these private moments to teach His disciples about the Kingdom of God in greater, and more intimate, details. Starting with today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to the Jewish territory, Judea, and resumes His public ministry.
“He [Jesus] set out from there and went into the district of Judea [and] across the Jordan. Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom, he again taught them” (Mark 10:1).
When crowds gathered around Jesus, His custom, as always, was to teach God’s true value and path. The Pharisees knew this, and, fearing His effectiveness, were looking to destroy His reputation and following; so they “immediately” approached Jesus to test Him:
“The Pharisees approached and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’ They were testing Him” (Mark 10:2).
And, He knew they were AGAIN “testing Him”. Previously, Jesus’ opponents attempted to embarrass Him for two reasons. They either challenged Jesus to do something they believed impossible to execute or accomplish, or by having Him say something they could use against Him then, or at a later date. (Sounds like ALL our countries political leaders are present day Pharisees of sorts!)
Let’s talk about the first of two issues: divorce. In their cultural time, divorce, under specific conditions, was an accepted practice among the Jewish people. It was regulated by the Law of Moses, as found in Deuteronomy 24:1-5. This law permitted a husband to divorce his wife only if he found her to be “indecent”. “Indecent” meant that she was unfaithful or extremely unpleasant. This justification for divorce, which is the specific reference the Pharisee’s addressed when Jesus inquires about the commandment of Moses. Concerning this reference from Deuteronomy, Jesus quotes rather from the Book of Genesis and counters with God’s original intention that men and women would become one flesh in marriage. Per Jesus, the teaching of Moses was a “concession” – – a special consideration – – solely because of human weakness and stubbornness at that specific time in the desert. Jesus blatantly declares to the Pharisees that divorce was permitted only “because of the hardness of your hearts” for that time:
“They replied, ‘Moses permitted him 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.’” (Mark 10:4–5).
Jesus deals with the issue of divorce by taking His followers and His enemies back to the beginning of creation and to God’s original plan for the human race. Jesus goes on to site Jewish Scripture in the next verses:
“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.” (Mark 10:6–8);
“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female He created them … That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” (Genesis 1:27, 2:24).
By using these “Words” from Jewish Scripture, Jesus is proclaiming PERMANENCE as the divine intent concerning human marriage, even from the very beginning of time. Our Lord Jesus Christ is reaffirming – – stating again – – a divine declaration: “What God joins together, NO human being should try to, or can, separate”:
“What God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mark 10:9).
Husband and wife become so “indissolubly one”, they become one flesh. That idea is the ideal intended as the unbreakable union of Adam and Eve, the first union of a couple in marriage. They were created for each other and for no one else!
Later, in private, Jesus’ disciples had a “roundtable discussion”, questioning Him further about His teaching on divorce. It is solely to His disciples that Jesus lays out the implications of His teaching; He explains that remarriage after divorce is nothing other than adultery (PERIOD)!! Jesus’ teaching was, and still is today, more restrictive than the interpretation of Mosaic Law by the Temple Pharisees, who permitted remarriage. However, this more restrictive teaching is not new for Jesus; remember the format of His beatitude talk: “You say … BUT, I say …!” (cf., Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23). Jesus is making a definitive declarative statement establishing God the Father’s NORMS.
Continuing His private dialogue with His followers, Jesus goes even further, distinguishing His teaching about divorce from that of the cultural norms of His time by applying His “Words”, His teaching – – EQUALLY – – to both men and women. It appears that first century Jewish culture permitted only the husband the ability to divorce his wife. Wives were not EVER permitted to divorce their husband for any reason, including adultery. They were simply slaves in the marriage, in my perspective.
The Old Testament directive (Genesis 24:1-5) in which a bill of divorce can be given to the married woman ASSUMES the legitimacy of divorce itself. (And, we All know the saying about the word “assume” regarding “U and ME”.) Jesus is denying this legitimacy of divorce between those TRULY married.
There are other sayings by Jesus in Holy Scripture regarding divorce. In essence the “Words” of Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself, absolutely prohibits divorce:
“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’” (Mark 10:11–12);
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18);
“To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): A wife should not separate from her husband — and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband—and a husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Corinthian 7:10-11).
Note that St. Paul (1 Corinthians), filled with the Holy Spirit, clearly declares that his instruction comes from Christ Himself. I firmly believe these verses just mentioned, along with other verses in Holy Scripture, and along with explanations found in our faith’s Catechism of the Catholic Church, truly represent the proper attitude and viewpoint of Jesus, the Son of God, and of God the Father Himself!!!
Now, the second issue in today’s Gospel, children, seems unconnected to Jesus’ previous teaching about divorce. However, when read together, these second set of verses comprising today’s Gospel, present a strong picture for Jesus’ strong emphasis on the importance of family – – both, of this world, and of His kingdom. God ALWAYS intended for women and men to be joined together in marriage, never to be separated. And among the primary purposes of marriage is that of begetting and raising children. By welcoming children and fostering their relationship with God, parents and families bear witness truly to the eternal beauty found in the enhanced and magnified family of God’s Kingdom.
In this second part (Mark 10:13-16), Jesus responds to the disciples hindering children coming to Him. His purpose responding to their action is to expand theirs, and ours, faith and appreciation for children and their spontaneous faith and eagerness to draw near to Jesus. “Do not prevent them …” is Jesus’ theme command:
“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” (Mark 10:13-16)
“Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mark 10:15).
His teaching, for them and us, is that we need to have a total dependence upon, and a complete obedience to, the Gospel – – the Holy “Word” of God:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race” (John 1:1-4).
My next statement may surprise and shock many Catholics, and possibly YOU reading this reflection today: JESUS ALWAYS EXISTED – – PRIOR TO, AND FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME!! Jesus IS God! But, Jesus is NOT God the Father! Yes, it is a mystery to me as well as you, with our human, worldly oriented minds.
People were bringing their children to Jesus, just as any parent would take their children to personally meet any great idol/hero of that time. And again, these twelve men, Jesus’ hand-picked disciples, show that they simply just don’t quite get His “Word”!!
Recall the Gospel readings from each of the past two Sundays. Jesus has taught His disciples the value and importance of these “little ones” – – the child and child like – – in the Kingdom of God. However, still even in today’s reading, these twelve men try to prevent people from bringing children to Jesus. So, Jesus AGAIN rebukes His disciples, and welcomes these children with open, loving, arms. As always, Jesus points to these children and their attitudes, trust, and unconditional love for Him to His followers as a true example of the kind of complete trust and dependence upon God which we should have as believers in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father – – the Holy Trinity – – the Holy “ONE” of Israel.
Children TRUST their caregivers. They take them at their “WORD”!! This is how we need to be with Jesus, with God the Father, and with the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through each of us personally, teaching us to take Him at His “Word”. This is also how we need to believe and TRUST in the instructions given to us by the supreme “3 in 1”, the Holy Trinity – – His good “Word”, as “Gospel”.
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).
“Becoming like children” is the model for All of US, not because of any supposed innocence of children, but because of their demonstration of a complete dependence upon, and trust in, their parents and other caregivers. So must WE BE!!
Jesus sets a high standard of marriage for those who are willing to accept His commands. At the same time, Jesus also sets a high standard for those who freely wish to forsake marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven:
“Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted” (Matthew 19:11-12).
Both marriage and celibacy are “callings” – – from God the Father Himself – – to live a holy and sanctified life in His kingdom NOW!! We are “called” to live either as married couples, or as celibate singles, NOT belonging to themselves, but to God. Our lives are not our own, they belong to God; He alone gives us the grace and power to seek, and to follow, His way of holiness in our state of life. Our faith is based on the revelation of God as three persons sharing the same supernatural, divine life: the “Three in One”. So, when we give ourselves completely to another through love, we are our own trinity in relation to, and imitation of God Himself. The two of us are connected through love with God. St. Francis often taught that we are all connected with God and with each other – – with all creation – – through love. (So, go out and hug a tree and kiss a Leper – – that’s how Saint Francis of Assisi started.)
The parents who brought their children to Jesus wanted Jesus to lay His hands upon them. They knew of His physical and spiritual healing power coming from His touch. No doubt the disciples wanted to shield Jesus from the nuisance of noisy children. However, Jesus loved and delighted in children, and in doing so, demonstrated God’s love having ample room for EVERYONE!! No one is “less” important to God!! Jesus comes to each person – – singularly, individually, and intimately – – to “touch” them with His healing power and immeasurable love, mercy, and grace.
Jesus’ teaching about divorce and remarriage is certainly challenging for many people, even in the Catholic Church. Our Church continues to uphold the strong and positive teaching of Jesus; a teaching in which God the Father intends for a man and woman (and ONLY a man AND a woman) to make a lifelong commitment – – a covenant – – to one another in the Sacrament of Marriage.
Many of us, however, know people whose “marriage” has not been a lifelong commitment. The example Jesus teaches us, is that we are called to act with compassion and love in our relationships – – with ALL – – and especially when people are in pain due to difficulties in their relationships. Most importantly, Jesus teaches us, that we need to remember a thriving marriage is a sign of God’s grace at work in this world, AND, in His kingdom!!
Think about what it means to make a promise or a commitment to someone. Some commitments or promises are fairly easy to keep; some are extremely difficult to honor, like the marriage commitment Jesus is asked about in this Gospel. We need God in our marriages in order to help us honor our commitment to love and care for each other. Remember, this commitment, this covenant is not linear, a straight line between the man and the woman in the marriage. Instead, the marriage covenant is a triangle between the man, the woman, and God Himself!! (The only lover’s triangle sanctioned by the Pope!)
May we never hold back our children from coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, to receive His cherished blessing and healing power! As we grow with age, pray that we never lose that “child-like” faith, trust, and humility, which draw us into Christ’s loving presence, into His open arms for each of us.
Jesus teaches that we should be like children before God, completely trusting God’s promise to take care for us, and asking for His help in keeping our commitments to love and care for others. Pray for God to give you His grace to honor your commitments and promises to ALL.
Since we all come from the same origin, both Jesus Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi teach us we should consider ALL others as our brother and sister. Do we truly believe that everyone – – whether born in the U.S., or anywhere else, whether black, white, or whatever their sexual inclination – – is our brother and sister? (Indeed, an interesting question!) Let me just ask you to love everyone as a brother and sister, as both Jesus and St. Francis teaches us to do, and gives us the grace and power to do. Together, with His grace and power, we CAN build the mature and “child-like” kingdom of God here on earth – – where all of God’s “children” are equally welcomed and welcoming!!
Prayer of Wisdom from
St. Francis & St. Claire of Assisi
“Jesus, following you is not always easy & carefree. It does require something from me: I must follow your commands. Often out of pride or convenience, I seek to follow my own will instead. Lead me through the narrow gates. Be merciful and soften my heart when I stubbornly refuse to follow you. Remind me that life with you is well worth any cost I may incur in following you. Amen”