08 October 2018

Homily - 7 October 2018 - The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

We have before us today the great mystery of marriage, “the one blessing not forfeited by original sin nor washed away by the flood.”[1] To our great detriment, we give too little consideration to the fundamental importance of marriage, both for the spouses and for society as a whole.
What the Lord Jesus teaches about the essential reality of marriage – that it is between a man and woman, that it is open to the gift of children, and that it is faithful and indissoluble – is openly rejected today, even by those who claim to follow him (cf. Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:6-9). He is too strict, too severe, people say; a single person, some say, he cannot possibly understand marriage. Let us be honest:

By the very fact of referring to humanity before the fall, Jesus is implying that from now on, God’s original intention is the true standard for marriage and all other human relationships. He is saying, in effect, that the concession in Deuteronomy no longer applies because humanity is no longer captive to sin, hardness of heart, and the resultant family breakdown. Now there is a new reality at hand – the kingdom of God – with a new power to live and experience what God intended from the beginning. As Jesus has already suggested (Mark 8:31-9:1), this new possibility will come about through his paschal mystery.[2]

Marriage, then, is intimately connected with the mystery of the Lord’s Cross, something too infrequently considered by spouses.

Saint Augustine noted this connection of marriage to the Cross when he noted that

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Even in the beginning, when woman was made from a rib in the side of the sleeping man, that had no less a purpose than to symbolize prophetically the union of Christ and his Church. Adam’s sleep was a mystical foreshadowing of Christ’s death, and when his dead body hanging from the cross was pierced by the lance, it was from his side that there issued forth that blood and water that, as we know, signifies the sacraments by which the Church is built up.[3]

Put more simply, just as the wife of Adam was brought forth from his side, so, too, was the Bride of Christ, the Church, brought forth from the side of Christ, the second Adam. This is what Saint Paul speaks of as “a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32).

Because the mystery of marriage is so closely joined to the mystery of Christ, marriage enjoys a high and lofty dignity. Together, husband and wife are called to reflect for all the world the love of Christ for the Church.

By the Sacrament of Matrimony Christian spouses signify and participate in the mystery of unity and fruitful love between Christ and the Church; therefore, both in embracing conjugal life and in accepting and educating their children, they help one another to become holy and have their own place and particular gift among the People of God.

Through this Sacrament the Holy Spirit brings it about that, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, Christian spouses also strive to nurture and foster their union in equal dignity, mutual giving, and the undivided love that flows from the divine font of charity. In this way, uniting divine and human realities, they persevere in good times and in bad, faithful in body and mind, remaining complete strangers to any adultery and divorce.

The true development of conjugal love and the whole meaning of family life, without diminishment of the other ends of Marriage, are directed to disposing Christian spouses to cooperate wholeheartedly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them increases and enriches his family from day to day. Therefore, trusting in divine Providence and developing a spirit of sacrifice, they glorify the Creator and strive for perfection in Christ, as they carry out the role of procreation with generous, human and Christian responsibility.[4]

From the example of Christ Jesus, we know that there is no perfection without suffering, without the Cross.

Just as it was in the days of the Apostles, people today what to hear a Gospel that promises a life of ease and prosperity, but that is not what Jesus promises. He promises to those who “have left everything and followed [him]” that they will “receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:28, 30). This is why

It is no wonder that the disciples, as often happens, find it difficult to digest the radical change Jesus has just instituted (see Matt 19:10). On his own authority Jesus has just taken away a concession given in the law of Moses. Why would he set this stricter standard? Surely it is not to make life more difficult for his followers. Rather, it is because through his cross and resurrection he is now giving them a new power to live according to God’s original plan for human love. They can no longer settle for less.[5]

What is more,

With this pronouncement on marriage, Jesus brings his teachings on suffering, self-denial, humility, and service into the most intimate sphere of human life. It is in the daily challenges of family relationships, in the struggle to live out God’s design for human love – especially in lifelong fidelity to another fallen and imperfect person – that ‘taking up the cross’ (Mark 8:34) has its most concrete application. But equally it is here that those who obey Jesus’ new law will be able to experience the coming of the kingdom with power.[6]

Let us, then, never doubt the truth of Jesus’ words or question their practicality. Let us instead trust that he will give us the strength to follow his teachings if we but seek and cooperate with his grace. Let us ask him to give us so great a love for his Cross that we embrace it however it comes to us, so that, united with his sufferings, we, too, may be perfected and brought to glory (cf. Hebrews 2:10). Amen.

[1] Nuptial Blessing, Roman Missal.
[2] Mary Healy, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2008), 197.
[3] Saint Augustine of Hippo, City of God, 22.17.
[4] Introduction, The Order of Celebrating Matrimony, 8-10.
[5] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, 198.
[6] Ibid.

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