October 7th 2018



  1. Parish Bulletin for Holy Family
  2. Newsletter for St Benedict's
  3. This Sunday's Readings
  4. Sunday Reflection
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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading Genesis 2:18-24

The Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.' So from the soil the Lord God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts. But no helpmate suitable for man was found for him. So the Lord God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. The Lord God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. The man exclaimed: 'This at last is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh! This is to be called woman, for this was taken from man.' This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.

Second Reading Hebrews 2:9-11

We see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God's grace he had to experience death for all mankind.

As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. For the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers.

Gospel Reading Mark 10:2-16

Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, 'Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?' They were testing him. He answered them, 'What did Moses command you?' 'Moses allowed us' they said 'to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.' Then Jesus said to them, 'It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.' Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, 'The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.'

People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, 'Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.' Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

Sunday Reflection 27th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Forewarned is Forearmed

Jesus was well used to questions from Pharisees. We know for certain, aged twelve, he had begun his dialoguing with them. Mark's Gospel for this 27th Sunday (10:2-16) tells of another encounter:

The Pharisees asked -"Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?"

and Mark adds by way of comment:

"They were testing Jesus."

One thing seems certain, the Pharisees' question was not an academic one of interest only to the rabbinic schools. It was a question which dealt with one of the acutest issues of that time and ever since.

While divorce itself was not a point of contention the circumstances in which it was allowed were. Those circumstances are laid out in Deuteronomy 24:1:

"If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house …"

In theory the Jewish ideal of marriage reigned supreme because marriage was the legitimate source of regeneration and continuity has always been, and continues to be, paramount for the Jews because of their frequent persecutions. You are unlikely to find a Jewish home without children.

In Judaism, chastity, defined as 'the avoidance of illicit sexual activity' is held to be the greatest of all the virtues. Specifically, adultery, incest, sodomy, and bestiality are called abominations; rape and seduction are likewise censured. Jewish belief holds that: 'Unchastity causes the glory of God to depart'. 'Every Jew must surrender his life rather than commit idolatry, murder or adultery'. The ideal was there but practice fell very far short. This is not to finger-point, as Christians, also, contravened their laws governing chastity.

Another problem in ancient times was that, in Jewish law, a married or betrothed woman was regarded as a 'property'. So a father gave a dowry to a future son-in-law who then took on the father's 'property' as his betrothed/ wife. A wife had no legal rights whatsoever. She was at the complete disposal of the male head of the family. The result was that a man could divorce his wife much more easily than could a wife divorce her husband.

Jesus, at his bar mitzvah, entered adult Jewish male life. In the Gospels it is recalled as the occasion when Jesus stayed back in Jerusalem for three days (Luke 2: 41-51). Jesus became Joseph's adult apprentice growing in awareness of much more than carpentry. Over those, so called, 'hidden years' Jesus would have known about births, betrothals, weddings and divorces as well as deaths, especially the crucifixion version of the latter favoured by the Romans.

There's every likelihood that, in the course of their man-to-man chats, Joseph would have shared with Jesus his experiences and feelings about the announcement of and the birth of his foster-Son.

Joseph may even have shared that he had thought about divorcing, quietly, Jesus' mother, Mary, before Jesus was born, for fear of interfering in what he did not understand. Jesus might then have heard, at first hand, about the apparition that changed Joseph's mind giving him the confidence to proceed with the marriage. His foster father may also have related details of the apparition in Bethlehem warning of the need to depart quickly for Egypt.

There are precious few words of Mary recorded in the Gospels but, of Joseph, there are none. Like Mary, Joseph's actions define him as a man of faith and prayer.

It was unlikely that the Pharisees posing the question - -"Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?"- had any inkling of Jesus' background. As ever, Jesus tried reaching out to them, despite their underhand intentions, asking:

"What did Moses command you?"

Jesus knew full well that if he hadn't raised the issue of Moses' rescript, they would have done so. Their question, itself an entrapment, was part of the overall Pharisee strategy to promote antagonism between the religious leaders and Jesus.

The Pharisees replied,

"Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her."

In response Jesus pointed out that the Mosaic rescript was occasioned by "the hardness of your hearts". Did Jesus mean that Moses had given the rescript because it was the best that could be expected from Jews at that time or because Moses was trying to control a situation which was, even then, degenerating by introducing some kind of law to make divorce more difficult.

This Pharisee initiated dialogue gave Jesus the opportunity to re-present his Father's original purpose in the giving of The Law; namely, the enablement of each person, made in God's imagine and likeness, to know how to live out their God-given vocation to be human. This applied not only to the Mosaic Law but also to the amendments taught by Jesus who said: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to complete them." (Matt: 5:17)

For both our Jewish brothers and sisters and ourselves, as their Christian successors, God's Law, spanning the Old and New Testaments, is a light for those in doubt on a demanding pathway, a handrail for the unsteady, a reassurance for the uncertain. The 'keys of the Kingdom', given by Jesus gave to Peter (Matt: 16:19) are to enable Christ's Vicar on earth to give support and guidance as well as calling the wayward to repentance. All must choose to embrace this life-enabling Law of God but may not alter it. When Pope Francis recently revised the Catechism to state that it was never lawful to take life. He was restoring the 5th of God's original Commandments. He was revoking a rescript that had allowed the taking of life in specific circumstances.

In his dialogue with these Pharisees Jesus did the same, he revoked the rescript that Moses had allowed "to meet the hardness of your hearts". Note - Jesus says 'your' not 'their' inferring that the hardness of heart had continued. In revoking the Mosaic rescript, Jesus was restating that marriage was a permanency which indissolubly united two people in such a way that the bond could never be broken by human law. For his authority he quoted Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24. In other words, Jesus was stating that, in the constitution of the universe, true marriage had been given as an insoluble unity, and that no Mosaic (or other) rescript could alter that.

However, Jewish law holds that adultery dissolves the marriage vow. For the Jews, once adultery has been exposed the marriage unity is destroyed and divorce merely attests the fact. In the Roman Catholic Church adultery does not, of itself, dissolve the vows of matrimony. It may, however, be indicative of an invalid marriage and so be useful evidence in any application for nullity, if efforts at reconciliation fail.

Jesus, in insisting that the loose sexual morality of his day had to be amended, was rebuilding God's sacramental rampart round the home. The work goes on today in the Catholic Church's pre-Sacramental programmes. This is particularly true of the Sacrament of Matrimony which, in the Roman Catholic Church, is understood as the response, by each partner, to commit their life to the other person of the other gender to form a permanent partnership for the whole of life for the well-being of both with the potential for the procreation and education of new life.

At first sight there may appear to be no bridge linking the two incidents in this Sunday's Gospel. But beneath the surface can be discerned, perhaps, Jesus' teaching about what it means to be human (Mark 10:13-16). Baptism, Confirmation and The Eucharist forearm us, as the Lord's adopted brothers and sisters, to share the kingdom of God here and right now with all from the youngest to the most senior in this land of exile.

We are called to a formidable vocation but God provides all that we need if our will is disposed to accept his calling. Others who have walked the path before us knew the self-sacrifice that it calls for. Of no other human is this more true than it is of Mary, the Mother of our Saviour. This version of the 'Hail Mary' is derived from a meditation on Michelangelo's Pieta:

'Hail Mary, full of sorrows, the Crucified is with thee; tearful art thou amongst women, and tearful is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of the Crucified, give tears to us, crucifiers of thy Son, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.'