27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 3 October 2021. Bible Readings for Mass: I: Genesis 2: 18-24; Responsorial: Psalm 128, II: Hebrews 2: 9-11; Gospel: Mark 10: 2-16
Marriage and the family are matters of immense blessing and many challenges. Marriage, family, courtship, children are not as they were even a few years ago. In 1949, 78.8% of all households contained married couples. Seventy years later, 48.2% of households had married couples. (From: USAFacts.org). Divorce has increased but even more so are couples living together outside of marriage. And there has also been a significant increase in people who have uncommitted relations with others while not living together.
It is a sad reality that very, very few individuals can say they come from families where divorce or non-marital relationships have not occurred. Yet today’s readings from Scripture speak to the clear design and blessing of God upon marriage and family. Are these teachings irrelevant or simply outdated? The ideal spoken of in Genesis and affirmed by our Lord would seem to be totally contrary to the world in which we live. Yet as we look to the holy readings we realize all this is not new.
The Pharisees confront Jesus about his beliefs and teachings about marriage. Using the law of Moses they challenge our Lord about marriage and divorce. And even the disciples struggle with questions for when they are alone with Christ they too ask about broken families. These questions, these challenges have continued as Christians face the realities expressed above and yet seek to be faithful to God’s teachings.
The image above illustrates how homes and families are being impacted by this world. A home, once beautiful, built with love, skill and care is now abandoned. It shows the attitude of many about the great gifts and graces of family and marriage. The stories this home could share would be beautiful. But what happened? Financial ruin? Divorce? Sickness or death? Sadly the stresses upon marriage and family are painfully real. They would seem to contradict the blessings and designs promised and taught by God.
Yet as we listen closely to God’s Word we realize that Jesus knows, fully, the challenges every marriage and family would face. and we can also realize that He has provided both places and power to flourish regardless of the family life we have known. This of course would apply to the Church, the family of God. It would apply in the holy mercies found in the sacraments. But even the family of God has many wounded, struggling souls. There are another two key places that are essential as we would seek God’s mercy and graces for marriage and family. They are are two gardens… Eden and Gethsemane.
As a disciples of our Lord, as families of faith, we must always be willing to let the Holy Spirit help us, spiritually, visit the Garden of Eden. We can never lose sight of the majestic designs and purposes of God. We must explore and grow in a faith-filled realization that what God has made is…good. Eden would show us the hope and promise where sin, selfishness, greed, simply do not belong. And Eden would challenge us to never settle or compromise for anything less than God’s will. God made all creation, God made man and woman, God makes us each in His image. And it is all good.
Yet like Adam and Eve, we cannot help but recognize our failures, our shame as we live with our scars of sin. It may be very hard to see the good God has made, in the world, through our problems, in each other, and especially in ourselves. Great may be the temptation, with this harsh knowledge, to despair. We may find it simpler to put our faith in feelings, fears, or ways of a fallen world. The beauty and peace of Eden may seem to mock our real lives. But that same beauty and peace, the walk with God will bring us to another Garden, Gethsemane.
It is as our holy angels walk with us they will show us God’s designs, His plans, His hope, and love for each of us. And as we make that journey they will lead us to the Garden where Jesus went before His betrayal, suffering and death. It is where we learn, perhaps daily to surrender self and seek God’s best. It is where we learn to say not my will, but Thy will be done…in our hearts, in our marriages, and in our families. Gethsemane is where we honestly learn who we are and who we are called to become. Gethsemane is where we come to accept the crosses of life and realize the freedom to which they lead. The sorrowful garden is where, in our loneliness and seeming failings we experience the embrace four heavenly Father and His holy angels. As God our Creator made Eden with all its promise and beauty the heavens rejoiced. At the second garden Garden God, our Savior, revealed just how precious His creation was and would be. The hands that took the rib from beloved Adam’s side and created Eve would learn the embrace of the angels in comfort and love as He said yes to the Father. And so it is with each of us. In Eden we learn the majestic, holy beauty of God’s designs. In Gethsemane, we experience the healing embrace of God for our lives and our families, our loved ones.
Whether we are blessed with a textbook classic family filled with many many blessings or whether we have a heart or home where the wounds of the life may be found God longs to bless.
It is no coincidence that our Gospel today closes with the account of people bringing their kids for Jesus to bless. The disciples did not approve (for reasons unknown). Perhaps among the children, there were kids from broken homes or with behavior problems or perhaps some were not deemed good enough for Christ. Jesus rebuked His disciples and called the children to Himself. God embraced them, as they were, He blessed them and placed His hands upon them. He saw each soul created and saw it was good.
It is in Eden we can take the hand of our Creator and learn His designs and ways. It is in Gethesmane we can see the hands that will soon be pierced in love for us. It is in these two gardens we grow in the graces and mercies of God for our marriages, our families ourselves. It is in His gardens we learn God does not make mistakes.