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Contents: Volume 2 - Twenty Seventh Sunday of Ordered Time Year B October 3rd, 2021

 

27th

SUNDAY

Year

(B)


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Sun. 27 B 2021

I definitely hope that the longer reading from the Gospel according to Mark is chosen to be proclaimed over the shorter one in parishes this Sunday. In my opinion, just the shorter version might push too many buttons and predispose the congregation toward negativity that is not necessary. Almost everyone hearing these words about divorce understands how profoundly divorce affects so many lives, even in the most non-contentious circumstances. Pastoral caregivers and homilists find themselves stuck with the grim realities of modern life, church prohibitions, and the not-too-helpful choice to preach on something else!

Embedded in our lives and direction from the Church, however, are God's love, mercy, and forgiveness. The words in the Gospel state the "gold standard" to be achieved in marriage so that divorce does not happen. When spoken/written, these words were a welcomed type of protection for the women of the day! A pastoral approach to the homily perhaps might soften the reality of some pretty horrible situations in which modern day people must follow their consciences rather than Church law. It seems to me that the words Jesus uses about children in the longer passage might be helpful. Jesus says, " Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it."

How does a child accept the kingdom of God? I think that information can help people better ALL relationships and thus enter the kingdom of God here as it exists and in the future. My list of demonstrating child-like acceptance of God's ways includes with openness, trust, joy, and playfulness, by being eager to learn, learning to listen, following the example of a good role model (Jesus especially), trying new things, and learning from mistakes. Let's not forget the need for honest communication.

I think that those in authority and homilists can choose a pastoral route incorporating some of these ideas. Really, all of us can, when a relationship goal seems impossible to attain. Trying to be understanding of and with others as the Lord is with each of us, can open up a kind of coaching. Coaching rather than criticism can enable people to approach this particular golden standard of behavior and other difficult standards rather than dismiss it/them (and the Church) entirely.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Seventh Sunday of Ordered Time October 3, 2021

Genesis 2:18-24; Responsorial Psalm 128; Letter to Hebrews 2:9-11; Gospel Acclamation 1st John 4:12; Mark 10:2-16

This seems to be "marriage Sunday" in the liturgy of the Word. The scene of Jesus with the Pharisees is interesting from a number of perspectives. It would be most helpful to know the practice of divorce in the time of Jesus. There was not uniform interpretation of the prescript of Moses. The two prominent opinions varied significantly. The one supported marriage as a permanent relationship between a man and a woman. The only acceptable cause for a divorce under this teaching is indecency. The law in the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 24:1) is as follows: "When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house…" The more restrictive interpretation of "indecent" meant adultery and adultery only. The less restrictive interpretation could include a poorly prepared meal, talking to a man in the street, or just getting old. The narrative of this Sunday’s gospel indicates the Pharisees embraced the most permissive interpretation. That interpretation denied any worth, dignity, or right to women.

A woman in the time of Jesus had no standing except that of her husband. She had no rights and had no ability to initiate divorce proceedings against a husband. She did not have rights to property. Even if a husband were abusive, satisfied his lust with anyone he found, or failed to provide support for the wife and his children, the wife had no rights to seek a divorce.

Jesus turns the question back on the Pharisees. "What is your understanding of the Law of Moses." The Pharisees pointed out the right of a husband to divorce. Jesus criticizes the Mosaic prescript as a concession to the practice of a one-way commitment in marriages. Only the woman had obligations, had no rights, was always subject to the whim of a husband whose ethics and morality was often in question. Jesus refers the Pharisees to the creation story in Genesis. There are two narratives in Genesis regarding creation of humanity. The more ancient story has the Creator taking a rib from Adam and fashioning woman to serve as a PARTNER to Adam whose task it was to name the animals and manage creation. Adam recognizes the meaning of this creation – "here is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called woman for out of her man this one has been taken." (Genesis2:21) This narrative implies a subordination of woman to man.

The second story is a simple statement. "Then God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.’ God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:26-27)

It is the narrative in Genesis 2:24 that Jesus quotes to silence the permissiveness of the Pharisees that allowed divorce to husbands only and for even the most frivolous of reasons. "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body." That is the basis of marriage, which is the foundation of the human experience of the unity of the Trinity. In the intimacy of marriage, the physical, psychic, and spirituality experienced reveals to couples who are committed to each other till death the very reality of the Trinity.

It is this unity from which comes the blessings of children. This marriage in the Catholic Tradition is a sacrament which makes the Loving Kindness and commitment of God for his bride – the Church – relevant and present to families. The sacrament’s ministers are the man and woman. The priest or the deacon are official witnesses of the Church and nothing more.

It was not until the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century that marriage vows had to be exchanged before a priest in church. This was required because as passion and affection died and responsibilities of raising children became burdensome, some men denied there had been an exchange of vows. In that way they walked away from family responsibilities. These so called "clandestine marriages" had no official witness or formalized record. The presence of the clergy brought an official witness who made record of the vows. Even after the Council of Trent’s directive, sacramental ministers of marriage are the husband and wife. (See When Bishops Meet, John O’Malley, pp. 39-40 & 179. Also see the Trent document, Tametsi.)

Marriage, like any human endeavor, requires effort, work, and discipline. The exchange of vows is the beginning of a relationship not the high point. The term "partner" should be taken literally. In human history women are considered less importance. Religious beliefs and practices typically supported this notion. Even now as our nation disengages from military force in Afghanistan, we have serious concern for how the Taliban treats women. In this regard even Catholic/Christian practice relegates women to a secondary role, one of unquestioning obedience, subserviance, and viewed as having no talent or ability for the church. In the last century there was significant improvement in our country of women’s rights and opportunities. Marriage in this movement toward freedom has not always been used as an opportunity to strengthen the family, to shore up marriage as a cornerstone of a moral society. Whenever marriage is celebrated and respected, however, there is peace, joy, and confidence, patient endurance when life hands us difficulties, violence, untruth, and conspiracies.

The Church is in truth a vital, living organism. It is a community that is the source of loving support and care. Where the Church lives up to its potential, where the parish is a beacon and a safe port in the storms of life, we discover the parish provides the foundation for faithful compassionate love, understanding empathy, and a sharing of the very life of the Triune God. Failing parishes collapse whenever marriage is trivialized, reduced to self-serving egoism, and becomes unbridled consumerism. The return to home after days of work, conflict, and achievement is a precursor to a hoped-for return to our ultimate home with the family of God.

Respect of each partner in marriage is essential. That is one of the take-aways of this Sunday’s gospel. If husbands can divorce their wives, then also wives should also have that right. Jesus, in this Sunday’s gospel, focuses on marriage itself and not on failure of marriages. In the past, our Church looked on spousal abuse and violence as trials to be endured. Danger to a spouse and children were not sufficient reasons to end a marriage. Mistakes made in the early moments of courtship often led to irrational choices and thus to a miserable life. The Church has come to recognize these factors. There is an effort to prepare couples for marriage that includes not only a spiritual side but also a practical, material, and rational consideration of life together.

In all this equality of partners is essential. A burnt pot-roast is not a reason to break vows. Marriage, according to Genesis, was always meant to be a joining of man and woman in one flesh, in one heart, and in one spirit. It all begins with caring about the other. It all begins with a sense of respect and dignity for the other. It all begins with each contributing to the relationship. It starts with attraction, followed by infatuation, followed by love, followed by commitment. Then follows a walking together, side-by-side, holding hands and confronting whatever would seek to divide. The effect is a growth in love. In that growth of love there comes to each an understanding of the magnificence of God’s love for us. For marriage is a sacrament, a making present the Son of God who sends us God’s Spirit. That Spirit is what unites us, makes us whole. In that union there is no divorce. Contentions and disagreements become not a divider but a pathway to greater union.

Let us, this Sunday, see the Pharisee’s question as a method of those who would benefit from hatred. There is a quietness to love; there is a peace that comes with appreciation of the other. When love is the basis and strength of a marriage, there is a joy that cannot be suppressed.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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TOGETHER FOR LIFE: 27TH SUNDAY B

Genesis 2:18-24; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16

When you and I were babies, we needed others to survive. When we grow old and weak, we will again need others to survive. But here’s a secret! In between, we need others too.

God says to us in the poetic story we hear today in our First Reading about the relationship between man and woman: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone’ (Genesis 2:18). God means, surely, being permanently alone. While it’s sometimes necessary and valuable to be alone and content with our own company, this can be for the time being only. We are social beings, and we need others to be fulfilled and complete. To feel this need is not a sign of sickness but health. Insanity, on the other hand, has been defined as a condition in which people can no longer connect with others.

The most dangerous lion is not the gregarious one or the one that roars the loudest, but the silent one who walks and stalks alone. Psychopaths and serial killers nearly always turn out to be lonely, angry individuals.

Isolation is a very painful condition. It causes people to turn in on themselves. Sometimes it leads to violence and addictions to alcohol, drugs, or sex. Then fear, shame, and guilt lead people to stay in their isolation. Persons who commit suicide are often people who have slipped into total isolation.

A survey was carried out among elderly people in America. When asked who was closest to them, two out of three said it was their pet dog or cat. How sad is that? In our poetic story today, God first gives animals and birds to the man. But Adam is unable to find among them a truly suitable companion.

Next, in this same symbolic story, God gives a woman to the man. As soon as Adam lays eyes on Eve he’s gobsmacked at the sight. Instantly he recognizes her as his life partner - made of flesh and blood too, sharing the same human dignity, truly his companion and equal. (True communion and community happen only among equals, but never when one dominates the other).

In marriage, God has answered the human need for friendship, companionship, closeness, intimacy, and warmth – what humans pine for but don’t always experience. To some extent, such needs may also be met by belonging to other types of community – to a community of religious women or men e.g. Those persons with a particularly close relationship with God report that they never feel totally isolated and alone.

All of us are more or less wounded by selfishness. When people get married, they bring to it not only their strengths but also their weaknesses. Getting married is entering a learning situation, a school of love, but one where the partners can sometimes be slow learners. But when a couple lets God become a big part of their partnership, their bond can last a lifetime.

What are the things that weaken the marriage bond? Lack of respect, poor communication, selfishness, jealousy, anger, nastiness, insults, aggression, abuse, violence, bullying, and above all infidelity! On the other hand, respect, affection, openness, honesty, generosity, patience, kindness, empathy and fidelity, strengthen the marriage bond.

Just like a garden, relationships suffer from neglect. They have to be constantly worked at. If people are experiencing difficulties in their marriage they should not be afraid to seek help. Relationships that have weathered some storms are sometimes the deepest and strongest. The quality of the relationship between the couple is so important that it must be put far ahead of a career, material gain, and financial success. This is illustrated by pictures in a newspaper paper now and then, of a couple with their arms around each other. Behind them, their house is burning down, but they are saying to each other such words as these: ‘After all, we’ve still got each other, haven’t we?’

‘What God has united,’ Jesus says, ‘let no one separate’ (Mk 10:9) This makes much sense both for the lifelong personal needs of the couple and for the lifelong needs of their children.

Togetherness for life certainly remains the ideal both for Jesus and his followers. But our Church community has to face the fact that many marriages break down, and some of the victims of a broken marriage feel a deep longing for a new life partner and a brand-new start. (Some such hurt and wounded people may be sitting near us as we listen to Jesus today). But this raises an acute question for our Church community: Can there be only point-blank black and white refusals? Or does our sharing in the compassion, caring, and kindness of Jesus point to the possibility of reaching some truly creative pastoral solutions? But there are no easy answers to this dilemma. So, let’s think, pray, and talk about it! A lot!

May the Passion of Jesus Christ and his everlasting love, be always within our minds and hearts!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year B: 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"What God has united, man must not divide."

Probably you will not be shocked to discover that, as a Catholic priest, I don’t actually know a great deal about married love. So today, I would like to tell you absolutely everything I know on that subject – don’t worry, it really won’t take long.

During the week I work as a GP for homeless people and as part of my training in General Practice, I once spent six months in Birmingham working as a geriatrician. That is a doctor who specialises in looking after old people. One day, we had a little old lady of 92 brought in to our hospital from one of the nursing homes. We were told that she’d been there for four years. She was the most demented person I’ve ever seen. Her mind was completely gone. She was completely lost in a world of her own. She had no understanding. She didn’t know where she was or who she was. She recognized no-one and understood nothing of what went on around her. She had no speech: she could not speak and she could not understand anything that was said to her. She had no capacity. She could not do anything for herself. She had lost control of her most basic bodily functions. She had to be washed and dressed, fed and toileted. She had lost everything that most of us think of as personality. She seemed to us like the empty hollowed-out husk of a human being. Some of the nurses weren’t even sure that we were doing the right thing in treating her pneumonia and keeping her alive.

Every day, she was visited by her husband who was 94. He was a very small man who always dressed very smartly in his regimental blazer and tie with the crest of the Parachute regiment. People said he had fought in the Second World Was and had seen action at Arnhem, but he didn’t talk about it.

Because our hospital was the other side of the city, he had to get three buses to get there. But, every morning he was there at 9 o’clock on the dot when visiting hours started. And he sat holding her hand and doing everything she needed until 12.00 noon. Then he went for his lunch and did his shopping. He came back at 2 o’clock and stayed with her until 4 o’clock when visiting hours finished.

Once, just once that I saw, he was late. His grand-daughter had come up from the city and she brought him in her car. We, the medical team, happened to be in the middle of our ward round at the time. He hurried past us into the side ward to hold his wife’s hand as usual, but the granddaughter stopped to talk. She told us:

"You know, they’ve been together since she was 3 and he was 5 and he carried her books home from school."

After that, I felt I just had to go and talk to him. So one day, I caught up with him in the canteen at lunch time, kind of accidentally on purpose; I screwed all my courage together and had a chat with him.

I asked him questions like:

Why do you come every day, when she doesn’t even know who you are?

What do you see when you look at her?

What does she still mean to you, now that she is so terribly demented - now that her personality is entirely destroyed?

He really didn’t have any good answers for me.

All he could say in reply was "she’s my wife".

All we - the doctors and nurses - could see was a very old, demented woman who had lost everything that we normally imagine is important in a human being. He, with the eyes of faith, could still see the woman he had married 70-something years ago.

That is all I know about married love.

But if that is your calling, I pray that you also may be fulfilled as that paratrooper and that you also may always see your beloved with the eyes of Faith.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in the power of God’s love.

Paul O’Reilly, SJ. <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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