27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading – Genesis 2: 18-24:

When you read Genesis, you will notice there are actually 2 creation stories side by side.  Theologians have determined that this is because there are 2 sources, one being Yahwist (J) and the other Priestly (P).  This creation story is by Yahwist, which is an earlier and more “earthy” source.  These creation stories in Genesis are not intended to be read as scientific documents about the beginning of things.  They are etiological stories written to help us ponder and understand basic truths about humans and creation.  How does this story speak to you about humanity and creation?

The most important point of this story is that both man and woman come from God.  There is a pun in this account that is lost in the translation.  An earlier Sumerian account tells of the goddess Ninti, whose name means “Lady of the rib” or “Lady of life”.  This play of the words rib and life is lost when translated from Sumerian into Hebrew, but traces of the meaning have been retained.  The woman is built from the rib (2:22) and she is later named Eve, Mother of the Living (3:20).  You recall earlier in this scripture passage, God forms man (adam) from dust (adamah).  But it is from this dust that all life is created:  plants, animals and birds.  It seems to signify a life force.   Made from the rib of the man, the woman is no more inferior to him than the man is inferior to the dust of the ground from which he comes.  God made all of it as worthy and good (“Scripture from Scratch”, 10/97).

2nd Reading – Hebrews 2: 9-11:

From Preaching Resources, Oct. 2006:

The author (and even the audience) is unknown for this ‘letter.’ It is not even really a letter, and there is much discussion over exactly what type of writing it is – a sermon? an exhortation? a treatise? But it contains a message that continues to be of great importance and truth. It tells of a God who is not at a distance from his creation, but “a God who has been speaking, arguing, pleading, wooing, commanding and generally spinning words across the lines between heaven and earth since the beginning of time.” These messages from God are like a great musical overture that reached its crescendo in Jesus Christ. Jesus who is God’s ultimate Word became one of us – even to the point of death. Here in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we can hear the salvation that God intended for sinners fully and hopefully with great thanksgiving.

Hebrews is part of the early Church’s effort to understand Christ as both human and divine.  Preceding this reading, Psalms 8 is quoted that angels are ‘rulers over the new world to come’ (Workbook for Lectors, 249).  But Christ made himself lower than the angels for a little while…so he could taste death like everyone does.  Christ wants to be one with us.  As Paul said in his letter to the Philippians about Christ:  “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, “ (2:6-7).  In Hebrews and Philippians, the intent was for the hearers of the message to place their trust in Christ.  Does it make you want to place more trust in Him?

The Gospel — Mark (10: 2-16):

How has God’s grace (God’s love, God’s very life) been present for you in a child – a spouse, a parent, a friend?  Maybe this is more about our ‘hard-hearts’ than about divorce. What do you think?  In the church there is room for everyone. As church we still need to proclaim the ideal of holiness of marriage, because it comes from Christ and his wisdom; it builds up the human family. But Christ calls all of us into a love relationship with God and with others. Due to human weakness we all fall short in one way or another. This only means we need Christ more; we need to alleviate the pain of broken relationships whenever and wherever we can, (Footprints on the Mountain, Roland Foley, 649).  We must be like children, open, vulnerable and trusting.

Jesus is being asked his opinion on a very hotly debated issue of his day:  the grounds for divorce. The words in Deuteronomy (24; 1-40) say that a man can divorce a woman for ‘some indecency’ which, of course, could mean many things. Some conservatives of Jesus’ day said a man could only divorce a woman for adultery.  Others said that divorce was all right if a woman was a poor cook, if she spoke to strangers, if she gossiped about her husband’s family, or simply if he found another woman more attractive.  Women, for the most part, had no right to divorce, at all, in Jesus’ time and culture.  Women in the Roman/Greek culture, however, could divorce, that is why Mark’s gospel refers to this in vs. 12.

Divorce at this time was also more than just a separation of two partners; it was a separation of families. God had chosen one’s parents it was believed. Then, the parents chose the marriage partners for their sons and daughters. In that sense then, God chose – God, through the chosen parents, had joined them together. Thus, “what God had joined together, let no one separate.”

Divorce then brought great shame not only to the woman, but also to her family – in particular to the males of that family. This shame would often be a cause for feuding.  Bloodshed was a common result from such a ‘separation’.  (J. Pilch, Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle B; Preaching Resources, Oct. 2006)

A word of warning and compassion:  This passage can be a cause of great pain and resentment for those who have suffered because of a union that was far from the ideal. “Without detracting anything from the sacredness of the gift of marriage, those who have suffered as a result of their unions should be shown respect, understanding and encouragement. Support for them in their struggle should be the order of the day in a community that is meant to be a home to all.” Just as physical nourishment is needed for one to grow strong, so spiritual nourishment is also needed and should not be withheld. This is the nourishment of friendship and the sacrament of Christ’s presence.  Everyone needs God’s strength and his grace of forgiveness daily.  This is an important for all, whether married or unmarried.      (Preaching Resources, Oct. 2006)

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2 responses

  1. Given that Mark writes in “sandwiches,” bracketing each little bit with bits above and below, I find it intriguing that the bit just above the “don’t divorce because you are one flesh” bit concerns cutting off parts of our body that cause us to sin. Such surgery is outrageous, painful, and undertaken only as a desperate measure. So is the divorce sought by, for example, an abused spouse who needs to take drastic measures and put a stop to being sinned against.

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