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)
1st Reading – Genesis 14: 18 – 20
Melchizedek is mentioned in only three places in scripture: this reading plus Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20-7:22. He is said to be the king of Salem; its name means peace. This place becomes the city of Jerusalem, the center of Israel’s kingdom.
It was customary for a king to be hospitable toward a victorious leader, but there are no ulterior motives here. Instead, there is a beautiful blessing ritual, to which Abram gives thanks. Note that Abram did not take his victory greedily. He only wanted to save his nephew Lot and retrieve the possessions that were taken from him. For the victory and the blessing, he gives thanks to God. How do you give thanks to god for the victories and blessings in your life?
Later Christian writers would evoke this episode in history and consider it a prefigurement of Christ. Jesus would offer the blessing of his life – the effect would be irrevocable and would be the gift of God’s self to the entire world – redemption. Jesus is the only true priest because of both his humanity and his divinity (Birmingham, W&W, p. 560-561).
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
This is the earliest written account (maybe 53-55 AD) of Jesus’ Last Supper and the words that have become our Eucharistic prayer.
From Celebration, June 1998:
Eucharist is about a remembering (anamnesis) that does not simply call to mind the past events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The Eucharist makes present here and now, within the gathered assembly of believers, the reality of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. Each Eucharist is a “living remembrance of Jesus’ act of love.” By our participation (offering our ‘hungry selves’, hearkening to God’s Word, sharing peace, and then eating and drinking) in the Eucharist, believers proclaim and are integrated into that death and are given a taste of the resurrected life to come.
We “proclaim the death of the Lord” . . . What does this mean? In Eucharist Christ comes to us as the one in whom God participates in the emptiness and negativity of life, as the one in whom God accepts us in the most unrestricted way possible, and as the one who in virtue of this acceptance, lays claim to all that we are and can be. The Eucharist is not simply a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus or the fact that he now lives. Rather, it is a celebration of the fact that it is the crucified one who now lives; it is a celebration of the God who came into the brokenness, the ‘unwholeness’ and the unholiness’ of the human situation, and who came to stay. In Jesus, God has come to be with us where we are. To proclaim the death of the Lord is to find in his death a new definition of ourselves – a new understanding of the meaning of success and failure, of the meaning of life and death, of what it means to be a human person. (John Dwyer, The Sacraments, “Chapter Eight: the Eucharist” p.129-130)
The Gospel – Luke 9: 11-17
It is important to place this gospel story within the context of the overall gospel of Luke. Chapter 9 had started with Jesus commissioning the Twelve and sending them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God. After they go out Luke tells us of Herod’s curiosity about Jesus: “I beheaded John. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” Then the Twelve return. They withdraw in private to Bethsaida, but the crowds follow Jesus, and yet, he welcomed them . . . here then, is where the gospel story begins. It ends with a superabundance of satisfying food.
From “Working with the Word,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
Too often we narrowly view Eucharist in the context of the Last Supper and its elements of bread and wine. This gospel expands our perception to include the whole event of hungering, and then gathering, blessing, breaking, giving, eating, and being satisfied. Evil diminishes life and enslaves people; God’s kingdom restores life and liberates them from hunger – ‘malnutrition’ and oppression. This story illustrates Jesus’ Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, the kingdom is yours . . . and the hungry will be satisfied.
It is at Eucharist that we experience most intimately the communion of saints. Communion of saints in Greek is koinōnia hagiōn. Koinōnia is any partnership, fellowship, activity, experience or relationship where people come together. It is togetherness for mutual benefit and goodness (Barclay, The Apostles Creed p. 245). Hagiōn literally means sacred things, hagiōi meaning members of the Church as saints, or sacred people (p. 247). Imagine the sacred things as being that which we share in Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus. In that sense, we are sharing sacred things as a communion (koinōnia) of sacred people. In the Byzantine liturgy, the priest says, “Holy things for holy people” at the distribution of Holy Communion (Shannon, Catholic Update May 2005, p.4). We become the body of Christ.
In the book With God in Russsia by Walter Ciszek (an autobiography of a Jesuit priest), he recounts being in Poland in a concentration camp and celebrating Mass. It was forbidden to do so, so it had to be done in secret. Fasting before Eucharist from the midnight before was common practice then. Since the inmates were only given 2 meals of gruel a day, giving up the morning meal was a true sacrifice. If guards did not make it possible to celebrate at the scheduled time, they may go even longer without eating. So this priest and those he celebrated Mass with truly held Eucharist in deep, deep faith (Nolan, Hungry, and You Fed Me, p. 273-275). Consider this as you receive Eucharist this week.
Let us pray:
Christ, be vital food; bread for our souls.
You were broken because we are broken.
You bless us beyond all telling.
Your grace expands like loaves and fishes.
You lavish love on us each time you come to us
and make us one,
since you are our very food and drink.
Help us to pour this love out to one another. Amen.