Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B
[Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16]
Of late, our collective attention as a society has been absorbed by two issues. The first is the need for healing and reconciliation with the Indigenous Peoples of this land. Thursday’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation raised our awareness of this concern in a significant way. The second issue is the varied reaction to vaccines against COVID-19. As what we call the fourth wave hits this province in an especially worrying manner, people are taking stances either for or against mandatory vaccination. Taken together, these two issues demonstrate with great clarity just how divided we are as a province and country, how separated and distant from one another we have become. In so doing they underscore how urgently we need reconciliation; how important it is not to remain as we are but to find the way back to one another.
This is the current context in which we receive today the Word of God and its teaching on marriage. The essence of that doctrine is clear and well-known. In the Book of Genesis, we are taught that God has made human beings male and female, and calls man and woman by the complementarity of their sexes to join together in marriage. This is God’s original and abiding plan for human love. We hear in the Gospel of Mark Jesus take up and affirm this teaching in strong and unmistakable language. The bond of marriage is made by God himself, and is therefore indissoluble. When we receive this teaching in the context of current societal division, we cannot help but think of the fracture that is found in many families today. We know that what Jesus teaches about marriage is true and beautiful. At the same time, we are also keenly aware that families today face many strong divisive pressures, and are acutely feeling the strain. The Word of God, however, not only brings to light the challenge faced by families today, but also offers the way to face it and remain faithful to the teaching of our Lord. In short, that way is to welcome Jesus himself into the home.
That is not a new insight for us. Long have we known that matrimony is a sacrament, by which we mean that the grace of Christ is given to married couples to enable them to live in accord with God’s intention for their marriage and family. Jesus does not simply set the very high standard for marriage, only to leave his followers on their own to meet it. On the contrary, by his death, resurrection and gift of the Holy Spirit he pours out upon us all we need to live faithfully as his disciples, whether that be in marriage or within another vocation. Yet, when we place this against the backdrop of our present societal context, a question emerges: even though we know our need for Jesus, are we actually letting him into our homes?
Here is why that comes to the fore right now: “Who we let in” has become a question that now occupies all of us. More and more venues require what are called vaccine passports from people before they are granted entry. With respect to our homes, too, it is not uncommon for people to ask friends or other possible guests if they have been fully vaccinated before they welcome them into the house. In one sense I am glad we are asking the question of who gets entry into the home, because we have for far too long been allowing in a host of influences without bothering to ask if it is safe to do so. Every time we turn on the television, connect to a website, or engage social media, we allow in a vast range of “viruses” that target our way of thinking, entice us away from the Gospel, and thus threaten the health of marriage and the family. “Who we let in” to the home needs to be deeply and seriously considered with respect to far more than just who is vaccinated against COVID.
For marriage to be lived fully in accord with God’s intention for it, the One who must be granted free and ready access to the home is Jesus. He is no threat and need not be feared. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that he achieved salvation for the world through his suffering. As Jesus is ushered into our family life, he wants to enter into any suffering, any hardship, any division that is there in order to heal and transform it by the power of his Cross. We need but open the door of our hearts, invite him in, and do what he asks.
This will have positive consequences for not only the family but also our divided world. When marriage is lived in accord with God’s purpose, the home becomes the place where husband, wife and children learn to make of themselves a gift to and for one another. This counters and helps to reverse the dangerous spirit of self-centeredness that is now contributing greatly to our societal discord.
While our history with Indigenous Peoples is awakening within us a deep desire for reconciliation with them, the concurrent pandemic crisis is showing us how far we are from being reconciled with one another in other areas of our common life as well. At the heart of a unified society stands the family, united in the love of Christ and relying on his grace to live the marital vocation in fidelity to God’s intention. So, as we celebrate the Eucharist this morning, let us offer it for healing and reconciliation in families. May the grace of the Cross that touches us here reach also into our homes, and make of them signs of hope in our deeply fractured world.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
|St. Joseph’s Basilica
October 3rd, 2021