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God’s Wise Plan for Us
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 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. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
Opening Prayer: As I turn to you on this Lord’s Day, I ask you to send me the light and grace I need to fulfill the mission you have given me. I want to worship you as you deserve to be worshipped, and to live my life in perfect harmony with your goodness and truth. Teach me, Lord, to “walk in your ways” (Psalms 128:1).
- Gender Fluidity Is Not Part of the Christian Worldview: Jesus revealed clearly and forcefully in this conversation with the Pharisees that an essential part of God’s purpose for the human family is the fundamental complementarity between man and woman, between male and female. We were created by God in God’s own image and likeness, the Book of Genesis reminds us, and that image and likeness includes the complementarity between the two sexes: “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:17). Popular culture today denies this basic truth. Popular culture today violently denies this truth and constantly attacks it. We live in the midst of and surrounded by this popular culture. Perhaps it would be wise for us to respond to Jesus’s reminder in today’s Gospel simply by taking some time to renew our adherence to God’s wise and loving plan for the human family, to explicitly say to the Lord, “Lord, I believe you created the world and everything in it out of love. I believe you created the human family in your image, out of love. I accept your wise plan and I renew my commitment to live in accordance with it. Thank you.”
- The Beauty of Marriage: Jesus’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage has been one of his most difficult ones for twenty centuries. Throughout the history of the Church, high-profile and low-profile Christians alike have tried to wriggle around it or water it down. This is because a life of marital fidelity is not easy. Of course, Jesus never promised that it would be easy. He just elevated the natural institution of marriage to a sacrament, reinforcing the natural marital bonds with sacramental force. This means that marriage, which was God’s invention at the very beginning, continues to be one of the most beautiful ways we have of imaging God’s own trinitarian love. When a man and a woman marry, they “become one flesh”; they give themselves to each other wholly and wholeheartedly, creating a space in the universe for something far beyond the passing pleasure and comfortable convenience that comes from merely hooking up. The beauty of the marriage vocation is not a static beauty or a fairy-tale beauty, but it truly is beautiful. If it is true that every stage of a married couple’s journey brings new challenges and sufferings, it is also true that working through those challenges likewise brings new manifestations of beauty, greater growth in wisdom, and deeper experiences of God’s fulfilling love. If we believe in God, we will also believe in the wisdom and the beauty of his plan for marriage.
- Two Pitfalls. Jesus’s teaching on the complementarity of the sexes and the indissolubility of marriage are difficult teachings, especially in a culture that blatantly rejects and ridicules those teachings. And so, we who adhere to them must avoid two pitfalls. The first pitfall is to be ashamed of these teachings. We all shy away from being unpopular, and so we can shy away from upholding and defending these unpopular teachings. But we mustn’t! The truth about gender and marriage opens up a pathway to a meaningful and fulfilling life. If we are ashamed of these teachings, we will lose opportunities to help our neighbors discover this truth and so leave behind the darkness and frustration that comes from embracing false doctrines. The second pitfall is to become hard-hearted. We are surrounded by people who have embraced lifestyles directly contrary to the Gospel in these areas. We cannot condone those lifestyles, but neither can we condemn those people. We are called to treat all people, every single person, with the dignity inherent in their being created by God and redeemed by Christ. To learn to continue loving the sinner even while never condoning the sin is to learn Christlike wisdom. May God grant that we be good learners.
Conversing with Christ: My Lord, I want to be simple and humble in accepting the truth that you have so clearly revealed—simple and humble like a child, welcoming your Kingdom in my heart and so experiencing the peace and vitality that comes from that Kingdom. I don’t always have an answer for the many objections people raise to your teaching, but I want always to be faithful to you, to trust in the beauty of your plan and the wisdom of your doctrine. Jesus, never let me be separated from you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will speak of the beauty of God’s plan for marriage and of the complementarity of the sexes in at least one conversation, giving witness to Jesus and strengthening my own convictions by sharing them with someone else.
For Further Reflection: Read Chapter 4 from Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family (Amoris Laetitia).
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.