27th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Purity of Relationship
Genesis chapter 2 is not meant to be a scientific account of creation. It is a theological statement. Man and woman are one flesh. Husband and wife are joined together by God, and they are no longer two for they become one flesh. What God has put together, let no man separate. Genesis also told us that everything God created was very good, but chapter 2 says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God joined man together with a helper suitable for him. Separation is not good; division is not good. In fact, a Church Father said, “Where there is division, there is sin.” Sin is not good; sin is missing the mark and falling short of what God wants to have for us, which is fullness of life, and fullness of life is accomplished by man and woman becoming one.
In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were testing Him and they asked Him, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife?” Jesus said, “What did Moses say?” During that time, divorce was easy to achieve. It was a concession because of the hardness of the people’s hearts. James said that the source of war was the desire of the flesh. Divorce was prevalent then because of the hardness of heart, so Moses allowed it. It is an attitude of the weakness of humanity. We divorce people because they don’t meet our standards. It was the hardness of heart, not of righteousness. Children were not allowed by the Pharisses to approach Jesus because they were seen as not meeting their standards. The Pharisees imposed standards on the people, which they themselves did not fulfill. Many times, it is a speck and log issue. What we see in others, we have something worse in ourselves.
One author said, “Each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others.” Sometimes, we want to correct something in others when in fact, there is something worse in ourselves. A theologian names Bonhoeffer said, “While we distinguish between pious and godless, good and evil, noble and base, God loves real people without distinction. God has no patience with our dividing the world and humanity according to our standards and imposing ourselves as judges over them.” In a community, we want all things in order, but the statement of the Bonhoeffer continues, “Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.”
We are tasked and instructed to love people. When we love people, we should understand that they are still imperfect. We are all in the process of being made like God. We are all in the process of being made divine like Him. We are all in the process of being made righteous like Him. God is at work in all of us. St. Paul said Romans, “Who are you to judge the servant of another, for to his own master, he stands or fall, and stand he will for God is able to make him stand.” God is not done with us and we all will reach our dreams, but if have this unmitigated zealousness, we should understand that people are not yet perfect, so we still are to love them.
Jesus died for us while we were still yet sinners. The prodigal son accepted his son into his mansion while he still smelled swine. The father did not want his son to stay that way, so his kindness to his son led to the latter’s repentance. The prodigal son must have realized that to stay in his father’s kingdom, he has to bathe himself.
Our wrong understanding of how to get to the ideals sometimes gets ahead of us. We might say that the Old Testament said, “Purge the evil from your midst. Cut off your hands.” There is something deeper that we need to address. We all want to keep the members of our body. It is not the members that cause us to stumble, but something else. We need to get down to however deep it is and correct it.
Actually, we already have been made pure. The song “It Is Well With My Soul” says, “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole is nailed to cross and I bear it no more, even so it is well with my soul.” All our sins were nailed to the cross. Evil has been purged from us, and God is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities and evil.
When Jesus died, not one bone in His body was broken. Think about what this means! Scripture says that of all that God has given us, we lose nothing. This is the will of the Father because Jesus has committed Himself to us. He has made Himself one with us.
In the Trinity, God is Spirit. The Father is Spirit. Jesus is God and man and only Jesus has flesh; and when He took on flesh, there was no turning back. When God joined man with Jesus, there was no turning back for eternity. Jesus is forever one in humanity. No option for divorce. Divorce doesn’t only involve husband and wife, but also the children and other people. No one is an island, so everything we do affects others. Marriage is a selfless act, and it is not good when there is division. Where there is division, there is sin; and what God has joined together, no man is to separate. This is why nothing can also separate us from the love of God - not death, life, angels, evil powers, things present or things in the future, our worst weakness and not even sin.
Again, Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners and God could have purge Himself of our evil, but He did not. He went to us and made Himself one with us when we were weak. Our goal is to be like Him. We have the same love perfected in us. A friend told me, “No sin you can commit against me can ever change my decision to love you.” This is the commitment that Jesus exemplified.
A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife – in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, in good times and in bad, and whatever weakness or strength. We have to work things out. This is what unity is about because we are brothers. We are from one Father. This is not only talking about marriage, but what God has joined together. We have been put together by God with our brother in this Church, so let no man separate us. It is not good that we are separated from what God has joined us with. We are each fellow partakers of God’s blessing. We have one Father. We are no more special than our brother. We are no more entitled to God’s blessing, mercy and grace than our brother.
In a basketball game, perhaps each team would pray that they would win, and who do you think God will give His blessing of a victory when they are all His children? God is able to make both teams win more than just a championship match. If we count our blessings, we would realize that God made us all winners, and our winning is much, much more than a trophy that a basketball association can give. We need to see that we are blessed more than we can ask, imagine or deserve because God is our Father.
Man and wife shall become one flesh. If they are divided, they are not one whole. Jesus made us whole. Separation or divorce is not just physically being apart. It is worse when two people are together, but they are not one in heart, in unity or in one accord.
I am not talking about doctrine, but an attitude. It is not being politically correct and being inclusive. I am talking about what should motivate and control our hearts, which is the love of God. The love of Christ controls us. Love is not a concept approved by the mind, but a zeal driving the heart.
One common question asked: can one lose his salvation? Jesus saved us, and so we have salvation, but can we lose this? The question in the first place is, “What are we saved from?” The typical answer of most Protestants is that we are saved from hell, but the Bible says, “You shall name Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.” Sin is covenant breaking behavior, and we should think of ourselves in a marriage covenant with God. What we should be asking is, “Am I saved from my covenant breaking behavior?” This is what will destroy marriage and what would send us to hell.
For those who are married, the question that would be asked is: Is the marriage secure once they are married? Will they not separate?” It is all dependent on the behavior of the spouses. Marriage does not stand or fall on one mistake, but if one willfully commits a mistake, eventually, the marriage will be destroyed. What the couple need to be saved from is what will destroy the marriage in the first place, which is the behavior. Thus, the spouses should think, “What should I do to make the relationship grow or to make the covenant flourish?” because what God has joined together, let no man separate, including ourselves.
Marriage is a sacrament. There is a reason why it is called a sacrament. A sacrament is a visible sign of something that is not seen. A sign of Christ and the Church – a relationship. One is married not so to have a personal, private relationship, but a calling to demonstrate the love of Jesus to the Church. Paul said, “Husband love your wives; wives submit to your husbands.” But Paul is talking about the relationship of Christ and the Church, which marriage, as a sacrament, should reflect.
As Christians, husbands are to reflect the love of Christ to the Church by being good husbands to their wives. Wives are to reflect the attitude of the Church by being submissive to their husbands. Marriage is a sacrament and we do not just receive the sacrament. We are to become a sacrament. We don’t just receive the body and blood of Christ, but we receive it to become the body of Christ to the world. A sacrament is a sign, a mirror, a reflection, demonstration, and a display of what is not seen.
This is our calling, and we are to be like Christ. This is the process that we are to be in. We are to please Him, submit to Him in His working in our lives. What God has joined together, let no man separate because every time there is division, it is not good, and it is a sin. There should be oneness, commitment, and love because this is the very way it is in the kingdom of our God.