[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
27th Sunday Year B
October 4, 2015
UNION, UNITY, DIGNITY
Today’s topic is most difficult for preachers like me. The easiest route is to go by way of what seems to be the only topic that appears to be the only way to go – that is, talk, not about, but against divorce.
Don’t get me wrong … I am a Catholic, and as a teacher of Moral Theology, would never go against either Scripture or sound, clear and consitent Catholic doctrine.
But I always take the route of the bigger picture. A detailed doctrine, no matter how categorical and clear, without its bigger context, will often (if not always) lack compassion. But life being what it is, complex and even complicated, we need both CLARITY & COMPASSION.
So then, what is clear in today’s readings? A whole lot, I must say … From the first reading, it is clear that humans were created “in God’s image and likeness.” What is clear is that human dignity is at the basis of humanity, at the core of our being human, whether we are male or female.
What is clear, too, is that the Genesis account of creation takes care to point out the reality of the joyful mutual recognition of the first man and the first woman as “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”
There is immense joy in being what God intended man and woman to be. There is intense happiness in being simply as God wanted us to be. And that joy is based, not on something negative – the prohibition of divorce – but on something positive – the meaning of marriage in God’s mind, in God’s dream, in God’s plan, and in God’s will.
This is what is clear … “It is not good for a human being to be alone.” It is not good for this social nature of the human person to be ignored, trampled upon, and violated.
The second reading also tells us what is also very clear … Human dignity is so valued and respected by God Himself that He allowed His Son to become like us. He “was made lower than the angels” that “by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
This, too, is clear … God lowered Himself for He believes in our dignity, and values our humanity, and treasure our human personhood, warts and all, yes … but called to eternal life.
What is then clear is the reality of God’s compassion. This is the bigger picture that I am speaking about.
That bigger picture is not one of prohibitions and decrees and commandments that are negative. No … that picture is one of a God who, overflowing as He is with compassion for those whom He created in His image and likeness, upholds, safeguards, and calls us to the best we can be.
And this includes our capacity to fulfill our social nature to the hilt, to the highest, to the utmost! And in so doing, He offers us the sacred model of marriage and gives us the most essential and foundational meaning of marriage as espoused in the clear teachings of Scripture, that a man and woman become one body, one flesh.
Yes, marriage is union. Yes, too, marriage is focused on oneness, on unity, that is not shallow, but deep … deep like the compassionate and consistent and undying love of God. No, it is not some more or less superficial social arrangement. It is not just a civil union governed solely by a piece of paper ratified by legal or paralegal personalities. It is not governed and made rational and legal by a majority vote, or by the Gallup poll, or by the noisy perorations of a vociferous but powerful minority, whose starting point is not human dignity, but shallow human desire. Yes … it is a contract, but no … it is not just a human contract where the original divine intention for the union does not figure in.
And yes, last thing I heard is that God’s original intention “sicut in principio” was this: “What God has united, humans must not divide.”
And now, a word about God’s compassion …
Let us start with the most obvious … It is not easy to become fully human, fully alive. Take it from me and you … How many times have we desired and decided to turn a new leaf, and before the day is over, you have realized that you have fallen “seven times seventy seven times?” Daniel Donovan says, that inspite of all Jesus’ gifts, “we continue to bear the burden of human history and of individual and collective sinfulness.”
We are insincere on not just a few times. We are shallow for many a time. We are disloyal. We quarrel and fight for trifles. We sin. Repeatedly. Grievously.
But look at how God is. He shared our life truly in Jesus His Son. He, too, suffered and died.
It is hard to be faithful to one person especially when after years of union, you now know that he or she was never the ideal person to start with. It is hard to be faithful to the Church, especially given the fact that most of her members (like you and me!) are actually jerks and dorks!
But I have one good news for you and me today. As I scan this Church, as I look at the different congregations I say Mass for and with, I know deep in my heart, that lifetime loving unions are not just a pipe dream that is a fruit of the whims and fancies of a cruel God.
No … the lives of so many couples who have lived and died in unions designed in heaven but made on earth, are proofs positive and incontrovertible that human loves do not just happen. They need a lot of working through and heroic efforts that cost blood, sweat and tears.
That, very clearly, is God’s work in and through Christ, but with a lot of human cooperation. That, very clearly too, is where God’s compassion shone through. And both clarity and compassion are ours to own, share and revel in, and emulate … What God has united, let no human divide.”