Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128: 1-2, 3. 4. 5-6; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16
“This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh…” (Genesis 2:23)
Today’s scripture readings are certainly a timely opportunity for reflection on the dignity of women and the significance of marriage in today’s society and in the church. For the past few months, the surge of celebrity and high-profile social media on issues of sexuality and the treatment of women challenges us to address the status of women not only in third world countries but also in the world’s most economically developed countries, such as the United States. The issues surrounding gender equality are complicated, ranging from legalized abortion to sexual assault and domestic violence reporting, to the portrayal of women in the media, human trafficking, child prostitution and marriage, and gender pay gaps. These issues are often masked in religious and cultural traditions and, in reflecting on today’s scripture readings, one can see that they were controversial issues In Jesus’ time as well.
There are two creation narratives in the first two chapters of Genesis. Today’s first reading is from the second creation story which recalls that God created man from the earth and woman from the side of man. The text implies that woman is not subordinate to man but rather she is to stand beside him as his equal, “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” Gen. 2:23). While many scripture translations use the term “helper” or “suitable partner” to refer to woman in this passage, many scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures feel that the term “indispensable partner” is a more accurate translation. This passage proclaims that from the moment of creation God intended man and woman to interact with respect, mutuality and partnership. In this context, the mutuality between man and woman is expressed in marriage where “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus speaks about the significance of marriage, a theme which is central to the entire Bible. The Bible begins with the Genesis’ story of creation climaxing in the creation of woman and Adam’s proclamation of his marriage vow(Gen. 2:23)and ends with the announcement of the “wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7). Throughout the Bible there are many references to the relationship between the Messiah and the people of God as a courtship and marriage based on love and commitment. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus frequently refers to himself as the bridegroom, the church as his bride, and heaven as a marriage banquet. All these references emphasize the fact that Jesus’ Church is relational and just as marriage is a life-giving covenant between two people, the New Covenant proclaimed by Jesus is a celebration of God’s people becoming one with Jesus in the Eucharist.
As we continue our reflection on the Gospel reading from Mark, we see the Pharisees, knowing Jesus to be a wise teacher, question him about divorce. In the Mosaic Law, a man could divorce his wife but this was not reciprocal. Jesus answers them by quoting from the Book of Genesis which describes God’s design for the equality of human sexuality from the time of creation. The question raised by the Pharisees is very relevant today for we all know someone who is divorced and remarried or has entered into a same-sex marriage. The Gospel is clear, however, that although Jesus had a vision for human relationships, including within marriage, he did not condemn those who did not fulfill his vision. With child-like hearts, we are called to be open to God’s unconditional love that will empower us to reach the ideal Jesus puts before us by the example of his life.
Sister Mary T. Flood, O.P.