Sunday, October 7, 2018

Marriage and Meaning

October 7, 2018 –– 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 2:18–24 / Psalm 128 / Hebrews 2:9–11 / Mark 10:2–16
Marriage and Meaning

Human sexuality is in crisis. It is under attack. This should not surprise us when we consider the place it holds in God’s design. We believe that God has given us “Manufacturer’s Instructions” for how to live in this world he created. There are several things about marriage from the Scriptures for today which need particular attention because they are so at odds what is being fed into popular opinion.

The first is the very nature of humanity. Just a few years ago one of today’s battlegrounds would have seemed impossible and labeled insane: the debate about gender. This is not the setting for delving into the particular arguments about that. What we need today is to hear Jesus affirm the truth upon which our physical identity is based: From the beginning God made them male and female. This must be the starting point for all Christians with any discussion about gender.

Then there is the nature of marriage. Holy Scripture gives us God’s affirmation for human existence: It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a suitable partner for him. Jesus gives his sanction to this and repeats the early revelation: For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

It is out of this union that humans show many of the ways we are in the image of God. There is the unity of two complementary people. This is meant to mirror the unity of the Trinity and the true nature of Christ and the Church. There is also the gift of extending creation, so that out of the union of husband and wife there are children. This is the domestic church that can so pervasively give a tangible witness of God’s character and glory throughout the earth.

For this to happen in its fulness and have proper stability, marriage must be permanent. The initial question for the Gospel reading was the Pharisees asking Jesus if divorce was okay. Jesus said no, and that the reason the law of Moses made allowance was hardness of heart. The words of Jesus are part of our marriage liturgy: What God has joined together, no human being must separate. We should always remember that Jesus is calling us and, through his grace, taking us to the place of “heart” that God designed in the beginning. We were created to show who God is.

I want to emphasize a phrase: through his grace….  I know that the issue of our sexuality has been a cause of major struggle and guilt for many, many people––especially in the Church. I remind us all of something John declares in his Gospel: God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (3:17). What God tells us about something so basic as our sexuality is always for our good. Knowing that we fall short and need his mercy and grace, we have forgiveness through God’s Son. We should always remember: God forgives us so he can heal us and make us holy. Salvation is a whole package!

So marriage, as God intended it, is at the very core of what it means to be human. Yet there is the exception of celibacy, either by circumstance or choice (and celibacy always means chastity; there is no place for twisting “celibacy” to mean merely “unmarried” yet sexually active). We need to think through the implication of the unmarried. Although humanity cannot show the fulness of God without marriage nor continue our existence without reproduction, an individual person does not have to be sexually active to have a full and satisfying life.  The single life lived rightly is also a vocation that shows the glory of  God. This, too, is in major conflict with contemporary opinion which seeks to give preeminence to the god of eros. We are witnessing in our social order the anger and upheaval that happens when sensuality is turned into an idol and given free expression. It is vicious.

The world around us is speaking out and acting out in ways that go against what God intended for human sexuality. The more a society rebels, the more that frustration and––ultimately––violence will affect the people. We have these straightforward words from Scripture that have been affirmed by the Church for 2000 years. Let’s not lose sight of what God has said as we live in tumultuous days. God tells us what we need to know for our own good: From the beginning God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. There is meaning in marriage.

No comments:

Site Meter