27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
3rd October, 2021
Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
God, the Church and Marriage.
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Today we celebrate the importance of love and respect within families and within the broader community.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Genesis 2:18-24
Introduction to the reading: The first 11 chapters of Genesis have very little historical foundation, but they teach religious truths in parable form. In Chapter One and Chapter Two, there are two quite different accounts of creation. Today we hear a part of the second account.
A reading from the Book of Genesis.
The Lord God said,
“It is not good that the man should be alone;
I will make him a helper fit for him.”
So out of the ground, the Lord God formed
every beast of the field and every bird of the air,
and brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
and whatever the man called every living creature,
that was its name.
The man gave names to all cattle,
and to the birds of the air,
and to every beast of the field,
but for the man, there was not found a helper fit for him.
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man,
and while he slept took one of his ribs
and closed up its place with flesh,
and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man
he made into a woman
and brought her to the man.
Then the man said,
“This, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother
and clings to his wife,
and they become one flesh.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 128:1-2.3.4-5.6 (R. see 5)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
and walk in his ways!
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be blessed and prosper.
Your wife like a fruitful vine
in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive
around your table.
Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.
May the LORD bless you from Sion.
May you see Jerusalem prosper
all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children.
On Israel, peace!
R/. May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
Second Reading: Hebrews 2:9-11
Introduction to the reading: Today and for the next six Sundays, our second reading will come from the Letter to the Hebrews. The section from which today’s passage is taken is perhaps the New Testament’s most profound commentary on the implications of Jesus becoming a human being.
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews.
Brothers and sisters:
We see Jesus,
who for a little while was made lower than the angels,
crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death,
so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he,
for whom and by whom all things exist,
in bringing many people to glory,
should make the pioneer of their salvation
perfect through suffering.
For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified
have all one origin.
That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
The word of the Lord.
If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Gospel: Mark 10:2-16
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.
At that time:
Pharisees came up and in order to test Jesus asked,
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”
“Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce,
and to put her away.”
But Jesus said to them,
“For your hardness of heart 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.
What therefore God has joined together,
let no one put asunder.”
And in the house,
the disciples asked him again about this matter.
And 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 they were bringing children to him,
that he might touch them;
and the disciples rebuked them.
But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them,
“Let the children come to me, do not hinder them;
for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
Truly, I say to you,
whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child
shall not enter it.”
And he took them in his arms and blessed them,
laying his hands upon them.
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
Herbert Fisher and Zelmyra George were married on 13 May 1924 in North Carolina, USA. They had been married 86 years, 290 days in 2011, when Mr Fisher passed away.
They hold the Guinness World Record for the longest marriage!
At 103 years old, Zelmyra scorned the idea that there’s some secret to the longevity of their marriage. “No secrets,” she said. “There isn’t any secret. It was only God that kept us together. ”Besides family, God and the church was ever-present in the Fishers’ lives.
Zelmyra didn’t attribute her long, vibrant life to healthy eating, exercise or costly nutritional supplements. Her efforts had been focused on her inner person and building relationships with others. “[You have to] know how to talk to people,” she said. “Try to treat everyone right.” Herbert and Zelmyra had a loving understanding of each other and they cherished each other. They were soul mates.”
Today is the largest gathering for Mass in our church since lockdown began in March 2020. I can be sure of a couple of facts: there will be single parents and divorced people in the congregation. There will also be other couples who are in a second marriage, after having their first annulled. Others will be in a second marriage, without having gone through the annulment process – – some because they did not qualify.
Others may be like a friend of mine who is in a second marriage. He told me, “When I married my first wife we were in love. After 20 years and many changes in our lives we grew so far apart and became different people. I don’t want to go through the annulment process and say hurtful things about her, or something that isn’t true, just to get the annulment. So, I have not applied for it.” That’s not the first time a person in a second marriage has told me that.
In this congregation gathered here today, people, like the ones I just described, will be listening. How will those divorced and/or remarried, hear today’s gospel? Will Jesus sound harsh and unbending? Will the gospel stir up past or present guilt; a sense of failure or inadequacy? Will the well-married be moved to a sense of superiority and egoism? “Marriage is hard, but we made a go of it; we stayed together. Why couldn’t they?”
Jesus places the ideal of a permanent loving relationship before us. One of the big influences in our lives is TV. We have grown used to: television soap operas, season-long series and “reality shows,” with their casual sexual situations, multiple marriages and cohabitation. Now, Jesus’ teaching can sound terribly old-fashioned, even quaint. But besides stating the ideal, Jesus also suggesting the Good News in his teaching.
For those who “accept the kingdom of God like a child,” what the world may consider outdated and impossible – is possible. That’s why we gather for Mass; we acknowledge we need help to live up to Jesus’ teachings and example and we turn to God for help and nourishment.
Jesus says a man who divorces his wife and marries another “commits adultery against her.” (He says the same about women who divorce their husbands.) In the Middle East of 2000 years ago, families arranged marriages and so a woman’s whole family would be shamed if she were divorced. Think of the conflict then between all the male relatives in both families. Often a divorce could lead to bloodshed between such families. One reason divorce was originally prohibited was to prevent such feuding and bloodshed.
Jesus’s hearers would have heard another piece of Good News – – for women.
In his time men could divorce their wives, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” What would happen to a woman who was “dismissed” by her husband? At that time she couldn’t go to night school to learn medicine or computer skills. “Dismissed wives” – could become outcasts from their own families and just abandoned.
In the Old Testament, there were some who interpreted the law about divorce rather loosely. Deut. 24:1 gives permission for a man to divorce his wife if he “finds something objectionable about her.” The “objectionable” thing could be as trivial as poor cooking. So, for example, if a wife burned the lamb roast, she might find herself “dismissed.” Who then would support her and her children? Jesus’ teaching about divorce tried to provide a fixed structure for a couple to live together with some sense of permanence and security – especially for the women.
Our society has come a long way. But, even today, divorced women and their children can become very vulnerable.
There are women who are trying to hold down jobs and raise their children without the support of their former spouses. Civil law views marriage as a legal contract. In contrast, our religious tradition holds marriage as a sacrament. God is involved in the union of a man and woman in Christian marriage. And more: the love between them is a sign of Christ’s love for his church.
Our ideal is a loving and permanent union between spouses in marriage.
The whole community benefits from such permanent structures. People of faith see in them signs of God’s abiding presence. Marriage unions challenge the spouses to be faithful, loving and self-sacrificing for one another.
This ideal of perfection, which reflects the image of God’s love, is also impossible to achieve; but still worth striving for.
Every adult here knows that marriage can be difficult. When a marriage is failing, sometimes nothing remains but hurt and the potential for still more hurt. In such painful circumstances people feel there is little alternative but to end the union and try to begin again. It seems these days this is more and more the case. Those who acknowledge their own failings in marriage and still want to continue following Christ, will ask for forgiveness for any part they may have played in the break-up.
It’s a challenge to our Church to consider how we are to treat those sincere and wounded people who have gone through a divorce. Our laws are meant to protect the institution of marriage for the common good. And then we are reminded that Jesus taught mercy and forgiveness. Jesus always showed loved and compassion to the vulnerable.
We as Church must do the same during this time of crisis for the institution of marriage and the family. We cannot blindly hold onto to its current laws and restrictions.
The church’s understanding of marriage has grown and developed tremendously since Biblical times. We are called now to raise up the ideal.
And we are also called to minister to those wounded by their previous experiences in marriage, who now hope to start afresh in new relationships – and still be full participants in the church.
From today’s Gospel reading:
“…a man shall leave father and mother and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
While our Church’s marriage laws are meant to protect the institution of marriage for the common good, still, Jesus has taught mercy and forgiveness and in his ministry he kept persons primary. How then can the Church do the same? By holding fast to its current laws and restrictions? Or, while raising up the ideal, by also ministering to those wounded by their previous experiences in marriage, who now hope to start afresh in new relationships – and still be full participants in the church.?
So, we ask ourselves:
- By their love and commitment to one another which married couples have witnessed to me the blessings of the sacrament of marriage?
- What can I do or say to give support to those who are struggling in their commitment to one another?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: Let us turn to God our Father in prayer, especially for the needs of those who are vulnerable.
We pray for the Church: that we may be a sign of communion between God and humanity and a means of reconciliation amongst all people.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all married or engaged couples: that they may recognize Christ in each other, grow into true oneness of life, and bring God’s love to others.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all who are in lonely or troubled marriages: that they may find support in the Christian community and receive strength and courage to work to renew their relationships.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all who have experienced divorce: that God will heal their pain, renew their sense of self, and help them find support and understanding in our community.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all healthcare workers: that God will renew their strength and restore their energy that they may continue to care for the sick and be signs of hope for them.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Robin Hill who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray for all Christians
O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion of your divine life,
pour out upon us a torrent of fraternal love.
Grant us the love reflected in the actions of Jesus,
in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.
Grant that we Christians may live the Gospel,
discovering Christ in each human being,
recognizing him crucified
in the sufferings of the abandoned
and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister
who makes a new start.
Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are necessary,
different faces of the one humanity
that God so loves.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Creator God,
in Christ you call man and woman
to the fullness of glory
for which you created them in your image.
Heal our hardened hearts,
renew our obedience to your spoken will,
and conform our lives to your gracious design.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.