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Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – “One Flesh”

October 4, 2009

Audio for this week’s Gospel is here.

Audio for the Homily is here.

Comments appreciated.

 Back when I was engaged, I am sure that I heard the words in today’s Gospel.  I am equally sure that I wasn’t listening at all.  After all, what 23 year-old is focused on the Bible and its implications on his life?  I was much more concerned about my job in the Army, my next duty station, and whether Ann Marie would still want me when I got back from overseas than I was about discerning the meaning of a passage of Scripture (I don’t think I even owned a Bible back then…). 

I was a product of our culture, a culture which looks at marriage as a convenient contract between two people, and which looks at children as a matter of convenience and “choice”.  So in looking at marriage, our culture didn’t prepare me to think about “higher things”; everything that Jesus referred to in the Gospel today went right over my head.

But have you ever thought about what it means to be “one flesh” as Jesus declared in today’s Gospel?  The implications of that declaration are huge.  And they mean something, not only to couples who will marry, but to the whole Church.

In the Old Testament reading, God creates woman to “complete” the man Adam.  Something was missing in Creation after everything else was made.  What was it that was missing?  A suitable partner for the man!  According to the story, the man Adam had dogs, and cats, and cattle, lions and tigers and bears to hang out with; none of them was a suitable partner for the man.  So God took something out of Adam, and from that created the first woman, Eve. So Eve contains what was now missing from Adam, and she completes him, makes him whole.

A lot of time passed from the creation of man until the Pharisees were hassling Jesus; and so had a lot of sin in the world.  The Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a question about divorce, which was a legitimate practice under the Law.  They wanted to put Jesus in the position of contradicting The Law, so that they could then punish Him.  And Jesus put it right back in their faces:  “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.”  And then, Jesus pointed to the creation story:  God created male and female to become one flesh.

It’s interesting to see how these teachings play out in our modern world.  One flesh.  Jesus says we’re to join with our spouses and become one flesh.  And that teaching is supposed to drive our conduct in and outside of marriage.

For example:  This teaching tells us that our sexuality should be reserved for marriage, when we become one with our spouse.  And it tells us that we should not contracept, because all forms of artificial contraception interrupt the union of spouses, and keep them from becoming one flesh.

It tells us that our marriages are intended to be permanent.  Not perfect, just permanent.  And it tells us, as we read further in the Gospel today, that the products of our marriages, our children, are special in the eyes of God, and that we should not only care for them, but strive to make them holy.

And Jesus teaches us all of this even in the midst of a culture that sells us the exact opposite message.  Jesus teaches us that the perfect unity of marriage is a gift from God, a gift that that our First Parents compromised in The Fall, but that we are now able to reclaim through grace.  And He encourages us to strive to achieve that grace!

But…what if we’re already divorced?  What if we’re contracepting?  What if we’re… sterilized?  What if we’ve already tried marriage and it just didn’t work out for us?

Brothers and sisters, all of these are realities in our lives.  If we aren’t personally in those situations, we know lots of dear friends who are.  And I wouldn’t stand here and tell you “Too bad…there’s no hope for those folks”… because that would not be true!

Jesus, and his Church, both call us to a high standard.  Our marriages, and our children, deserve our best effort to try to achieve that standard.  But when something goes wrong, when our best efforts fall short of the goal, we still have God’s mercy to fall back on.  Divorced?  That doesn’t kick you out of the Church!  Go talk to our priests.  They will help you understand your situation, even if it’s been years!  Contracepting?  Come talk to any of us; let us help you understand what the Church teaches, and how beautiful it is.  And consider trusting that God created you correctly, and fertile.  Sterilized?  Again, our priests can help you, first to understand why that wasn’t the best decision, and then to understand how to move beyond it.  No one will judge you.  All of us just want to help!

At the end of the day, God gave us the gift of marriage to let us help each other to get to heaven.  And He gave us the gift of children to let us be co-creators with Him in building His kingdom!  

“One flesh”.  God calls us to be one flesh.  And all that went right over our heads when my wife and I married.  And I don’t think our experience was unusual!

But in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, and the Pharisees, what God has called us to.  Marriage is no small thing; it’s not just a contract between two people to hang out together.  Marriage is the sacrament which creates ONE out of TWO.  Marriage joins together a man and a woman just as Christ is joined to His Church.  And marriage is important enough that we ought to do everything we can to strengthen it against the assaults of this world.

So much in the world works against marriage.  We have to take hold of all that God provides us to help us on our journeys together.  If you’re married, ask yourself:

“What have I done to become more united to my spouse today?”

If you’re not married, the question is: “What am I doing to become more united to Christ, and to His bride, the Church, until I marry, if that’s God’s will?”

Strong marriages, and strong families, are what build up the Church.  And God’s grace is the glue that binds those strong families.  Ask for His help.  And see what happens!

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