Twenty-Seventh Sunday of the Year. fr Leo Edgar urges the need for prayerful contempation when reflecting on the nature of the family.
If one was able to choose suitable scripture readings to accompany Pope Francis’s return to Rome after his memorable visit to Cuba and the United States, one would probably choose the same passages from Genesis and from Mark’s gospel. They could hardly be more topical at a time when the approaching Synod of the Church is about to gather in Rome in October for the second time to discuss matters relating to family life and society’s attitude towards marriage, co-habitation, same-sex unions, gay relationships, annulments and separations, all topics of immense importance for the majority of humanity – or should be!
When God created man, as we are given to understand in the book of Genesis, he saw that it was not good for him to be alone.(Gen. 2:18) And so he created woman. In that brief account, at the very beginning of the Bible, of an essential part of God’s creation we learn of God’s wisdom, compassion and love in forming the first ‘marriage’. The continuation of the human race exists thanks to God’s willingness to allow men and women to play a vital role in the continuation of his creative process, giving them a prime function in sharing God’s re-creative power.
Perhaps no issue has been greeted as being so sensitive to Christian faith, as the issue of how the Church deals with all these issues in the 21st century. We are indeed conscious of the diversity of views held in conscience by so many followers of Christ; and equally conscious of the anguish and pain that can be caused by a perceived reluctance on the part of the Church, to put into practice the compassion and forgiveness that is shown by Christ himself .
If we are to be truly Christ-like in our dealings with divisive issues related to family life, we must exercise mercy, Pope Francis tells us, discovering in that mercy the love and compassion of God our Creator, and Christ our Redeemer.
Whatever our individual interpretation of the Church’s teaching, we need to pray constantly for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to inspire the Synod to discuss the problems often experienced in modern family life, taking as our lead the words spoken by the Holy Father in Philadelphia last week, at the conclusion of a memorable visit, when he expressed pleasure at the huge gathering saying, “It’s worth being a family!” In saying this, Pope Francis demonstrates, I think, his conviction in the permanence of marriage, supporting the Church’s teaching that the commitment made by couples to each other is a lifelong commitment, as contained in the vows made to each other.
The Mosaic Law allowed a man to leave his wife by issuing a “writ of dismissal” (Deuteronomy 24) and this is the reason for the Pharisees questioning Jesus in order to test him. The answer given by Jesus indicates that Moses had given this law to the Israelites because they were so “unteachable” and hard-hearted (according to Nicholas King’ S.J.’s gospel commentary). But then Christ explains to his disciples unequivocally that God created man and woman to be complementary to one another, from the beginning of creation, the man leaving father and mother, and the two becoming one.
In all of Christ’s earthly teaching he insisted that he had come “not to abolish the Old Law, but to fulfil it”,(Mt. 5:17) and in his response to his disciples he gave a clear understanding that what God has joined together, man must not divide.
In all the forthcoming Synodal discussions of the Church’s doctrine it is important that all the issues relating to today’s family life are examined with open minds, allowing the eventual decisions reached to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and are the result of much prayerful contemplation on behalf of all those who are engaged in the future guidance on family life in all its aspects.
Readings: Genesis 2:18-24|Hebrews 2:9-11|Mark 10:2-16