October 3, 2021 at St. Peter and St William Parishes in Naples, FL
Genesis 2, 18-24 + Psalm 128 + Hebrews 2, 9-11 + Mark 10,2-16
After all these years since Jesus encountered those Pharisees, we have not come very far when it comes to morality and human behavior. What leads me to this observation is that, like the Pharisees, we are still asking the wrong questions when it comes to choices. “Is it lawful?” they ask. In spite of everything they have heard from Jesus, they still think that the perfect observance or keeping of the law is what matters. There is only one question that must guide us: “What does God want?” Of course, for too many, that question is too hard because it implies a relationship with God and a desire to do God’s will. It’s a lot easier to just check the rule book and charge on, but a strict observance of the law has every possibility of leading anyone of us into misery, alienation, and sin. There are countless ways to think of this, but imagine a parent who is out of work and out of money. They steal a loaf of bread to feed their children. Is it lawful some might ask? What does God want? Might better resolve the moral issue.
So, here comes these silly Pharisees trying once again to trap Jesus. You have to wonder if they could ever learn that it won’t work. Yet, they ask him about the law and he traps them instead of the other way around by raising the real question: “What does God want?” He takes them back into their own scriptures which we just heard proclaimed here before the Psalm. I hope you noticed something that is important here, because that second chapter of Genesis describes creation in a very different way and order than the first chapter which confirms what we believe, that the Bible is teaching a kind of truth that has nothing to do with history or science. When you wake up to realize that Chapter One and Chapter Two have very different stories of creation you begin to see that there is something else going on here. In Chapter One, Adam is last in creation. In Chapter Two everything is created after Adam except Eve. In Chapter Two, God is fashioning a creature endowed with godly characteristics, then feeling the same loneliness of that one-of-a-kind creature, God made other living creatures.
Before Adam met Eve, he was little more than a zoo keeper and gardener. Then, when they met another thinking, speaking person, they realized they were made for each other. As they learned to love, they grew in their likeness to their Creator. By leading the Pharisees back to the beginning just as he does here with us, he leaves us to ask what it is God wants, and we can quickly realize as did the Pharisees, that the law does not express the will of God. In this case, it simply exposes the hardness of hearts and more seriously, the injustice of the old system which gave a man all the power and left the woman helpless. No will or wish of God in that thinking.
In the end, Jesus speaks to us today of relationships and the importance of mutuality and the beautiful partnership that must be at the heart of every marriage. At the very end of this passage, Jesus reimagines the whole hierarchical relationship between adults and children as he calls those children into his midst. He affirms the value of children which that culture at that time did not see. Yet, he insists by word and deed that children are equal to adults because all are invited to hear the Good News and be blessed. He traps the Pharisees and anyone else who trapped into a narrow vision of salvation. He gives us a bigger vision that puts first a concern for the will and wish of God before enforcing the letter of the law. He invites us to experience the grace of being caught up in the Genesis vision of God’s plan for our union with God and neighbor which leads us to hold every single person with respect and esteem as a unique gift of God.