This Sunday is the twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings this Sunday discuss the bond of love that marriage creates between a man and a woman, a bond that God intends to be permanent and indissoluble. The readings, therefore, challenge spouses to practice fidelity to their ever-faithful God, honoring their holy covenant before Him.
The first reading, taken from Genesis, explains God’s original plan of marriage. The reading teaches us that the woman is made of the rib of man, and, hence, she is “bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh.” Figuratively, “bone” represents strength and “flesh” represents weakness. Woman’s origin makes her one with man and completes God’s creation. Man and woman are bonded in God’s deliberate creation of them. The clearest expression of this bonding is found in the marriage of a man and woman and their co-creation, with God, of a child, making a new family unit of three. Woman is found to be a “suitable partner” for man.That is why, God says, “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife” with the result that, “the two of them become one flesh.” The text attributes two essential qualities to marriage which is unity and mutual interdependence.
The Letter to the Hebrews is a sermon which explains the meaning of the early Christian confession that Christ died for us and our sins. It presents Christ as the great High Priest who has willingly offered Himself on our behalf. He is both the Perfect Sacrifice and the Priest who offers it. The reading says that, by the grace of God, Jesus tasted death for us all, that He was our leader on the way to salvation and that we are now His brothers and sisters. Christ was thus “perfect” for fulfilling the task of bringing us into a new relationship with God in which we may now approach God with confidence and even boldness. Christ became the brother and Savior of all people, the good and the bad—everyone. But Paul suggests that we have to accept the pain that we encounter in our daily lives the way Jesus did, as the suffering we should endure on the way to glory.
The Gospel reading gives Christ’s explicit teaching on marriage and divorce, the Divine origin of marriage, the sacredness of family life and the indissolubility of marriage. The reading from Mark’s Gospel is the main source from which the Catholic Church derives Jesus’ teaching on the Sacramental nature of marriage and its indissolubility. Christian marriage involves both a sacred and a legal contract between a man and woman. At the same time, it is rooted in a special Covenant with the Lord. That is why Jesus states that a valid marriage is permanent.
Of course, it is not always easy for two partners in a marriage to get along with each other. Although marriage is one of the most fulfilling of all relationships, it is also one of the most demanding. Husbands and wives bring their strengths and weaknesses, loves and hates, hurts and wounds, hopes and fears into the marriage with them. Hence, the first requisite for a lasting marriage is that the spouses learn to accept each other as they are: two imperfect and vulnerable human beings. As the first reading says, husbands and wives are God’s gifts to each other: “I will make a suitable partner for the man.” The couple must learn that healing the wounds of family life is as necessary as healing the wounds of the body. In Familiaris Consortio, Pope St. John Paul II encourages families with the following plea: “Family, become what you are.” This echoes the Second Vatican Council, which calls the family “the intimate community of life and love in which the partners are nourished spiritually and physically, accept one another as they are, and adjust to each other, deriving strength through prayer, the Word of God, the Sacrament, plus guidance and counseling…”
Marriage demands that the man and woman should become the right person for each another. What does this mean? It means a union based on committed, sharing and forgiving, sacrificial agape-love. It requires a great deal of mutual adjustments; generosity and good will to forgive and ask for forgiveness; sincere cooperation in training children and raising them as practicing Catholic Christians; and daily strength from God, obtained through personal and family prayers and participation in the parish liturgical activities, especially the holy Mass, faith formation and other sacramental life within the church. Participating in the liturgical activities of the Church not only brings families together but also provides grace and strength to face the many challenges that families face in the modern world.