Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Today we tackle the issue of marriage and divorce; Jesus is asked an awkward question about the legality of divorce. He lays down very clearly that what God intends for marriage is what is found in Genesis (where the “two become one” for all time) rather than the dispensation granted through Moses (permitting a writ of divorce) which was an exception, not the rule. Here it is clear that Jesus abrogates this Old Testament procedure ‑ a point emphasised when the disciples press him further on this issue on getting back home. While it is important for us to be sensitive and understanding towards those whose marriages have gone awry, we must be careful to let the teachings of the Lord speak for themselves.
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Genesis 2:18‑24.
As often happens on a Sunday, when Jesus quotes from the Old Testament in the Gospel, we hear the same passage in the first reading. In an age when it is all to easy to be negative about the mystery of marriage, this reading recalls the great wonder which is marriage, as it tries to explain what is so special, so blessed, about man and woman becoming one. It is a poetic illustration of the search for the perfect partner, and the joy at finding one. The reading is a story, with a short poem and a final line of explanation. So tell the story first. It can be helpful to imagine telling the story to a group of children beginning in your mind “Once upon a time...” The story builds up the dilemma: no suitable companion for man could be found ‑ what was to be done? When the Lord God finds a solution, the reader should allow the man’s joy to pour forth. Remember this is poetry, which is trying to do is express (in a particular way) the joy and perfection of a human couple united in marriage.
Second Reading: Hebrews 2:19‑11
We leave behind the impassioned outpourings of Saint James, and turn to the Letter to the Hebrews for our second reading for the next seven weeks. This letter, not written by Saint Paul but by an unknown author, takes as its central theme the transition from Judaism to Christianity, showing how the latter, in the person of Jesus, has superseded the former. A great deal of the letter focuses on the person of Jesus, as the High Priest of the New Covenant, and what he does. So it is today: we hear of Jesus suffering and submitting to death, sharing everything that we are, so that we could be his brothers and sisters, and so bring us into glory. This is a complex and compact reading: these three sentences are packed with ideas ‑ not a single word is redundant. Spend a while reading, in order to understand what the writer is trying to say ‑ that God, through Jesus, has enabled us to share in glory and salvation.