Homily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa
Sunday, 7 October 2012 – 7.30pm
(Readings: Gen 2:7, 15, 18-24; Ps 128; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16]
As we hear in the Book of Genesis, God did not create us to be alone, or to live in isolation. The Lord says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Rather, God created us to be in relationship with others. Our lives are a complex web of relationships of all different types. We can think of the relationship between parents and their children, between our brothers and sisters in our families, and all the other relationships in our families. We have friends, acquaintances, work colleagues; people we live in the same house with; we have the relationship of fellow believers, people we know in the Church.
But, amongst all the relationships of life, the union of a man and a woman in marriage, as a partnership for the whole of life, has been held up, from time immemorial, as a pivotal relationship amongst all the others. Scripture tells us that it was this way “in the beginning.” This is the way God created it. The creation of the partnership of man and woman is part of the final act of God’s creation.
As the scriptural account goes, we know that the original sin disturbed what God created to be. Once man did what God ordered not to be done, a rupture came into the original beauty of creation. One of the first things disturbed by the original sin is that the original harmony of the relationship between man and woman is disrupted. Adam blames his wife for his wrongdoing. Competition creeps in. The husband will “lord it over” his wife. The disruption of the original harmony is such that Moses gives a law that allows divorce. Moses can’t heal the disruption, and so he does the only thing he can do, he makes a provision to deal with the disruption to married life.
In the first half of today’s gospel Jesus speaks of divorce and adultery in such a way as to reinforce that the original plan – the original beauty – of the one-flesh union of man and woman – was that it was something that was permanent, exclusive, and something that should not be put asunder. Further, sexual relations with anyone other than one’s wife or husband were not part of the original beauty and order of creation.
In the second half of today’s Gospel we hear about the disciples stopping the children coming to Jesus. At first glance it can seem that the two parts of the Gospel are not really related. However, in Jesus’ admonition to the disciples to let the children come to him, and his further statement that his followers need to welcome the kingdom of God in the manner of a little child, Jesus indicates that his disciples need a conversion. We could therefore say that in order to accept Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce we too need a conversion of heart (Terrence Prendergast, Living God’s Word: Reflections on the Sunday Readings for Year B, Toronto, Novalis, p. 144). His teaching is not easy to live, and for many people, not easy even to accept. It requires grace.
On another level again, the second half of the Gospel is very closely tied with the first part. The acceptance of children within marriage is a very real issue, because it would seem that part of the disruption of God’s creation as it concerns marriage is the non-acceptance of children. This is evidenced through contraception and abortion. Neither of these reflects the beauty and order of how God created things to be.
We could obviously speak at length about all of those things: marriage, divorce, adultery, contraception and abortion. But for the purposes of this homily, the thought I want to leave you with is this: that “from the beginning of creation” God created a beautiful order to human relationships. And of all those relationships, the one-flesh union of a man and woman – what we call marriage – was part of God’s plan. Marriage was for the fulfillment of humankind, coming out of God’s concern that it was “not good that the man should be alone.”
Human sin, though, has disrupted the relationships that God intended. Sin has spoilt the beauty of the order that originally marked God’s creation. Certain things have come about because of the disruption – and have come to be tolerated, just as Moses was forced to tolerate divorce – but these things are not what God intended, and they are not paths to life.
Jesus Christ came to bring about a new creation. He came to restore what God intended – to bring people back to the path that God wants us to walk. Jesus’ work continues in and through the Church: and this is why the Church upholds the dignity of marriage. This is why the Church teaches that contraception is against God’s plan, and that abortion is wrong.
Jesus is still working to bring about the new creation, to help people embrace the divine plan: which includes the divine vision for marriage and human sexuality.
We know, too, that Jesus is our healer and our reconciler. We all fall short of the divine plan in our own ways. To say that the divine order has been disrupted, and that its beauty has been spoilt, these are not just abstract terms. We bear those wounds in ourselves, in our very bodies. We are wounded by divorce, by adultery, by contraception and by abortion. To the extent that that is true, Jesus wants to heal us. He wants to bring about our conversion so that we can come more and more closer to living the divine plan. This is not simple. But Jesus wants to forgive and heal us for when we have failed; and in the faltering steps we take to live God’s will, Jesus gives us strength and grace and continually wills to lift us when we fall. This he does most especially through the Sacrament of Penance. But also – continually – through the Eucharist.
May the Lord open our minds and hearts to be able to see the beauty of his divine plan for human life. And may we, through our worship tonight, reach out for the Lord as he reaches out to us, to bring us into his kingdom.
Fr. Adrian Sharp