October 3, 2021, Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Oct 4, 2021 | Blogs, Fr. Luke, Homilies

“It is not good to be alone. I will make for them a suitable partner.”  Words from our first reading today from the 2nd chapter of Genesis – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

19 years ago, the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch was released.  Still worth watching today, it’s about a crazy, destructive alien, Stitch, who became the adopted pet of a small, broken Hawaiian family.  Stitch’s behavior caused still more hardships for this poor family, and just as things were getting completely out of control, the characters of our story courageously maintained their commitment to their idea of Ohana, meaning family.  Ohana, family, they said, means that nobody gets left behind or forgotten.  Unfortunately, today there are many challenges and struggles in our world that are in fact breaking down families and family life, causing people to be left behind or forgotten.

Why is that so?  Are there simply too many expectations placed upon us, busy as we are, running from place to place, from this thing to the next?  Is it the increased costs that go along with the increased standards of living or are there are not enough supports around our financial debts, our childcare, or wages to help us get by?  Have we been sold the wrong dream that we fall into despair? Maybe it is problems with drugs and addiction that destroy our families?  Is it that enormous amounts of television and social media consumption keep us isolated in our rooms, in our own worlds, apart from each other?  And particularly disturbing, why is it that 1 in 4 men and 1 of every 3 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, abuse happening right there in the home?  Is there a problem of attachment without commitment that half of all marriages fall apart?  Why is it that more and more young people are not getting married at all, especially when studies show that they are in fact seeking stable and wholesome relationships, which ironically the very institution of marriage in the Church is meant to provide?  When Pope Francis came to the United States, he addressed Congress and spoke to them regarding his concern for the struggles of the family.  He said, too many are trapped inside “a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair,” he said. “Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them.”  It might be helpful to think about your own family or the family you were raised in and some of the challenges your family has faced…  As we know, there is no family that is perfect.  We all have some level of dysfunctionality as we learn to deal with each other’s flaws and failures.  We’ve all seen and felt the struggles.  I’m not sure if there is any one right answer to the problem; it could be all of these and more… but if we are to truly help families going forward, it would be helpful to honestly assess what we are facing and why.

Let’s not beat ourselves up too much: throughout the history of the world, there have always been challenges to family life in one form or another, whether we knew about them or not.  The same is true in Jesus’ own time.  As we heard in our Gospel, Jesus recognized the struggles of family life, was concerned with his society’s understanding of marriage and the acceptance of children, and he went on to address them in truth and in love.  In ancient Israel, it was possible at that time for men to obtain divorces for any reason whatsoever, but women could not because their reproductive capability was considered property belonging to their father and then to their husband.  In a patriarchal society, women didn’t have much of a social status.  So, divorces became common and were initiated unfairly.  Jesus maintained that many divorces occurred because of the selfishness and hardness of people’s hearts.  Consequently, throughout the Roman Empire, people in Jesus’ time simply decided to forego marriage altogether, which produced its own set of problems and complicated relationships, much like we see today.  Finally, children too were viewed as weak, insignificant, and dependent.  Jesus recognized these many challenges and how they had a negative impacted upon the family.  Jesus wanted the family to do well in their lives together and desired wholesome relationships that we would not end up alone.  To this end, he supported great standards and ideals for love, which the Church still upholds today.  He upheld the 7th commandment for men and women both: thou shalt not commit adultery.  He reaffirmed the equality, the beauty, and the permanence that belongs within marriage – what God has joined no one may separate.  Jesus also embraced children and blessed them, promoting their worth.  Jesus saw the struggles the family faced and addressed them in love.  In carrying out Jesus’ mission, the Church today has a lot to offer in support of families in this overwhelming and weary world.

It is particularly noteworthy, that the Scriptures use the word ‘embraced’.  To embrace means to accept or support someone or something willingly or enthusiastically; to embrace, to put one completely within your arms.  That Jesus embraced them, calls attention to the beauty that is inherent within the family even in spite of the many trials that families face.  There is someone who walks alongside us and embraces us so we don’t face these challenges alone.  Taking on our humanity, Jesus becomes part of the worldwide human family.  In spite of all the suffering that belongs to our human race, Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.  Earlier we reflected on our struggles for the family and why they are occurring.  Like Jesus who responded to their problems in conversation and supportive action, we likewise cannot ignore the challenges that are confronting us.  Like Jesus, a family is there for each other and embraces each other.  When a couple weds and begins to navigate through the married life, they have the example of their families of origins as a model.  They have their relatives and friends to help guide them through the ups and downs of their relationship.  Children learn from their parents and their siblings, and though they make mistakes, they remain loved and accepted…  It is not good to be alone, and in the family, we never have to be.  It’s good and important to consider the support we can offer to others and to families who are struggling: foster care, addictions and support groups, policy planning at the political level, counseling, good and sound teachings about love and family life, a better sexual ethics, renewed values, Teams of Our Lady and other social groups to help us grow and more.  But before we do any of these things, our first response for us who are here today, and this is something all of us can do, our first response to the Word of God which we listened to today is to go home and embrace your family amidst its struggles.  Too often, we take family for granted.  Do something intentional today for the people whom you love.  Find a way to do something, anything to celebrate and embrace your family with all the love and beauty that belongs to this great and holy vocation, as Christ did.

At the end of the Disney movie, the mischief-maker Stitch declares, “This is my family.  It is little and broken… but still good yes still good.”  Thank you for being my family here at St. Mary’s.  We may be little and broken at times, but we are still good.  In our struggles, let’s not maintain hearts that are hardened towards each other, but maintain and live out the truth that underlies these relationships with great love so that Ohana might prevail: may it be said of our families that no one gets left behind or forgotten.

Reading I

Gn 2:18-24

The LORD God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a suitable partner for him.”
So the LORD God formed out of the ground
various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name. 
The man gave names to all the cattle,
all the birds of the air, and all wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep,
he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib
that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:
    “This one, at last, is bone of my bones
        and flesh of my flesh;
    this one shall be called ‘woman, ‘
        for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

  1. (cf. 5)  May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
    Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
     who walk in his ways!
    For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
     blessed shall you be, and favored.
    R. May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
    Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
        in the recesses of your home;
    your children like olive plants
        around your table.
    R. May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
    Behold, thus is the man blessed
        who fears the LORD.
    The LORD bless you from Zion:
        may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
        all the days of your life.
    R. May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
    May you see your children’s children.
        Peace be upon Israel!
    R. May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.

Reading II

Heb 2:9-11

Brothers and sisters:
He “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels, “
that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he,
for whom and through whom all things exist,
in bringing many children to glory,
should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.
He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated
all have one origin.
Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers.”

Alleluia

1 Jn 4:12

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    If we love one another, God remains in us
    and his love is brought to perfection in us.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

Mk 10:2-16 or 10:2-12

The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”

And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced them and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

OR:

The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”