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WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER, LET NO MAN PUT ASUNDER. A reflection for the 27th Sunday of the Ordinary Time, Year B.
By Fr. Donatus Okeke
Sun, 03 Oct 2021

READINGS:
1st: Genesis 2:18-24
2nd: Hebrews 2:9-11
Gospel: Mark 10:2-16
 
The rate at which intending couples post their pre-wedding pictures on various social media platforms can make an unmarried person become jealous or so anxious to get married at all cost. Unfortunately, cases of divorce keep on increasing.  Marriage, in our world today is in crisis. People no longer value the permanence of marriage. Marriage has been shifted from its original plan of God. Thus, the Church in todays liturgy draws us back to the initial plan of God for marriage
Foundations of Marriage as a Sacrament
The First Reading narrated the account of the institution of marriage by God. This is seen in the creation of the woman. In the Gospel, when asked by the Pharisees on the legitimacy of Divorce, Jesus directed them to the original plan of God (as recorded in the First Reading). Jesus told them that, divorce was not in the original plan of God but, it was because of the hardness of their hearts that Moses permitted that. It is important to note that for the Jews, under specific conditions, divorce was accepted. In the book of Deuteronomy 24:1-5, Moses gave room for a man to divorce his wife, if he finds anything in her that he does not like. In this case, it was only men that were allowed to divorce their wives. Wives were not allowed for any reason, even adultery. However, Jesus in today's Gospel removed this privilege of divorce given to men only. Hence, he returned marriage to the original plan of God and thus, marriage became a sacrament.
"..it is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper.." (Gen 2:18). After creating man, God observed that the man needed a helper. The animals were not suitable for this task. So, he had to create the woman out of the man.
 
God's plan for us encourages companionship, togetherness, communication, praying and doing things in common. We need the other, in order to survive. Unfortunately, we live in a world that militates against this. Human relationship has been punctured greatly with the increase in technology, insecurity, self-centeredness, threats to human life and others of such. "..he took one of his ribs.. and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man, he made into a woman.." (Gen 2:21b-22a).
 
Some scripture scholars argue that God took the rib of the man, to show the relationship between the husband and wife - they must be side by side. He would have taken any other part of the man. Marriage is therefore, a companionship which is based on self-donation, life giving and not selfish exploitation. Marriage is all about exclusively sharing things together. When this sharing is not felt, the marriage is not in order.
It is important to note that women are not to be seen as inferior to men, simply because the rib of the man was used to create the woman. Their relationship should be one of complementing each other and not inequalities. Mutual respect is inevitable. "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man" (Gen 2:23).
 
The addition of the prefix 'wo' to her name (woman), suggests their common origin- the same creator. 
The man was excited when he saw the woman. Unfortunately, this mood (excitement) did not last long. Adam seemed to have blamed God for giving him Eve, when asked by God why he disobeyed him. This continued even till the time of Moses, which made him make some provisions for divorce. This is still the case in many marriages. During wedding ceremonies, there are lots of merriment, dance and festivities. After the wedding, hostility emerges.
 
"What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Mark 10:9)
We learn here that marriage is a Divine initiative and not human. Thus, any marriage VALIDILY and lawfully contracted is sealed by God. No human element can untie it, since we are inferior beings to God. This is the foundation of the teachings of the Church on marriage. In the Catholic Church, we can talk of annulments of marriage and not divorce. By annulment, the Church declares that there was no marriage. Some conditions can necessitate this - when it is not validly contracted. Thus, divorce is contrary to God's plan.
Jesus Blesses Little Children (Mark 10:13-16)
 
This is the Second part of today's Gospel. At the first glance, it may look unconnected to our theme on marriage. However, it is connected. Jesus was sad with his disciples because they were preventing children from coming to him. Let us understand first that, this text was written in relation to God's kingdom. We can still link it to our theme of reflection. It is one of the properties of marriage - openness to fertility (cf. CCC 1664). Marriage must be open to welcome children.  Thus, practices like abortion, contraception, same sex union and others of such that abhor procreation are against the original plan of God. 
 
Beloved in Christ, marriage is a divine initiative. Divorce is not the solution to marital disputes. Interestingly, studies have shown that a great percent of divorcee do not have peace of mind. Some who remarry leave their new marriage and enter into another. Divorce is on the increase because we no longer value the sacredness of marriage and immaturity on those preparing for marriage. We (married and unmarried) are encouraged today to uphold the sanctity of marriage.
May God help us!!!
 

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