St Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL
Genesis 2, 18-24 + Psalm 128 + Hebrews 2, 9-11 + Mark 10, 2-16
The Gospel today reminds us that ultimately the work of Jesus Christ was to restore us to the conditions of Paradise, to take us back home, back to that “Garden”, into that relationship with God once marked by obedience, fidelity, and love. The inspired writer of these verses from Genesis was interested only in asserting the equality of woman. In human terms, she is not a different kind of being from man, and is not inferior to him. She is his partner and equal. Being a “helpmate” does not imply that she is less. The union between them is so great and strong that there can be no question of breaking it without destroying their very identity. So this text is about equality between man and woman. That is what Adam is proclaiming when he says that she is “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh”. It is a declaration of equality. They are equal. They are one.
On the basis of this understanding then Jesus says to those who would trap him that God’s plan matters more than a man-made plan, with this “arrangement” that permitted a man to divorce a woman for any frivolous reason while a woman had not right to divorce whatsoever. Jesus is turning the whole system upside down using the divorce example to confront injustice and the abuse of one person by another. While these verses may lead us off to wonderful reflections on marriage, they are really a headlong confrontation of Jesus with a cultural system that accommodates the power of one over another and tolerates the abuse of one by another. This is not God’s will.
Unity, and oneness is God’s will. So the healing of what is broken and the restoration of all the wonderful conditions of Paradise is the work of Jesus Christ. Recovering what was lost with leaving Paradise is what Jesus called, “The Reign of God.” Jesus has come to take us there, to take us home. He began that work at the very spot where the Father’s plan was interrupted by the choice of Adam and Eve to be disobedient and unfaithful. He began at a wedding in Cana. A wedding, a marriage, this magnificent union of man and woman is a sign of our hope and intention to live within the Reign of God.
This text is not a condemnation of people who have experienced the tragedy of divorce. It is an affirmation that it is not good to be alone. It is an affirmation that God has chosen man and woman to be equal partners united with God in the continuing work of creation. So to decide to build a life with another is to make an act of faith proclaiming publicly, the power of possibility. It is to declare faith in the future. When a man and woman stand before God and say, “I do,” they are really saying, “I do believe. I do believe that my tomorrows will be better because of this person I marry today. I do believe in starting a family. I do believe in continuing what began with that first man and woman.” In this way, countless men and women who enter into marriage affirm that mystery, and they proclaim that they will care for one another, no matter what. They proclaim that they believe that their future together will be brighter because this other person is a part of it. They are saying: we are part of a story stretching back to the beginnings of time. And they are saying something more: we want to continue the story, by becoming a family to one another, and welcoming children, and letting God continue his creative work. There is nothing more pro-life than that. Respecting life is about being open to life, every blessed second of it, in all its wonder and disappointments and challenges and setbacks and joys. It is saying yes to the ongoing miracle of creation, no matter how small or needy or imperfect it might be. The mystery and wonder of a woman and a man who say “yes” to God’s call to share in the ongoing creation of the world is the most visible and concrete testimony to faith we could ask for.
We will stand in a just a moment and recite the Creed to give witness to our faith and our unity while all around us in this place there are living witnesses to faith and unity in the marriages that give us all cause to rejoice. It is not good to be alone, and that is why it is so good to be here as church, as family, as faithful people who seek to know, obey, and find peace in doing the will of God and completing the work of Jesus Christ.