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Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflection Dec 9 – Deacon Paul

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Sunday, December 9

Second Sunday of Advent

Luke 3: 1 – 6

Gospel:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Reflection:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” These words of Isaiah foretold the message and the mission of John the Baptist. This call to prepare the way for the Lord was urgent then and is still just as urgent today. God came in the Person of His Son when the Word became flesh. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.

During these weeks of Advent, it is important that we hear the voice of John the Baptist and respond to his appeal for conversion. Likewise, we are invited to open our hearts to receive the Son of God. Unfortunately, we can easily lose the focus of our faith during these weeks before Christmas and fall into the materialistic mindset of our culture. There are many crooked paths that we can be tempted to walk. We can get off track in our Christian lives, falling into sin, walking along roads that deviate from our faith.

This Advent, let us make straight the path of the Lord in our hearts by examining our lives, clearing the way for the Lord to act in us with His grace. It is important to look at our lives and to see where our choices and actions have not been in harmony with the Gospel. The Sacrament of Penance is a great way for us to heed the call of John the Baptist to repentance and conversion. It is also a time of joy as we prepare for the celebration of Our Savior’s birth.

This week we will also celebrate two beautiful feasts of Mary: The Immaculate Conception on December 8th and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th. Mary awaited and prepared silently and prayerfully for the birth of her Son. May she intercede for us, that we will be ready to receive anew, in our hearts and our whole lives, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection Dec 2 – Deacon Alfonso

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Sunday, December 2

First Sunday of Advent

Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Gospel:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Reflection:
I’m convinced that there is no more satisfying experience than fresh beginnings. Nothing communicates hope and potential like a newly moved in home, a freshly painted room, a new friendship, or a new job. It seems like we all desire for a second chance, we all long for a renewal that will bring out the best in us in order to finally get things right. Many view the new year as just that, as 365 days to start again and work to that place we so long to be in life.

For the Christian, the longing for renewal is achieved not so much by us, but by Jesus Christ who “Makes All Things New” (Rev. 21:5). Advent is one of my favorite times of the year and to be honest I probably get just as excited about Advent as I do about Christmas. The reason is because Advent presents for us Christians a time to anticipate that so long renewal, that hope for the promise of change, of relief, of freedom and of new beginnings that is fulfilled with the arrival of Christ on Christmas Day.

The Church’s liturgy in this time points us to the promise of God, of the arrival of his divine son, not as some time constrained event that has occurred in history, but as a promise that continues to manifest itself in our lives in the present, and that will ultimately be fulfilled in his second coming. In this time of Advent, the Church calls us to recognize our deep desire for renewal, our weakness and our need for our savior and in so to truly expect the arrival of Christ in our hearts on Christmas. May you be filled with that deep sense of Hope for Him who so longs to be born in stable of your heart this Christmas Season.

Deacon Alfonso Gamez

Gospel Reflection Nov 25 – Deacon Frank

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Gospel Reflection
November 25, 2018

Sunday, November 25

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

John 18:33 B-37

Gospel:
Pilate said to Jesus,
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?”
Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Reflection:
Because this is the last Sunday of the church year and the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we are asked to reflect on the last things in our lives – on life, death, and the promise of eternal life in the reign of God. I realize that for some this is a hard topic to reflect on, however, God’s word this weekend sheds a ray of light of the world to come.

So, what is the point of calling Christ “the king”? After all, we gave up on kings a long time ago. In the United States we fought a revolution to get rid of kings. It can seem an antiquated image. But did you know that the feast itself was instituted less than 100 years ago? Pope Pius XI formalized is in 1925. With the rise of secularism, nationalism, and global strife, he sought to remind us that Christ is the true sovereign of all. It is in Christ that peace shall reign.

This last Sunday appropriately comes after our own wonderful national celebration of Thanksgiving so it is an important time for giving thanks for what we have received throughout this past year and throughout our lives. May all of us:

– Give thanks for the gift of life and the gift of new life in baptism.
– Give thanks for each of us being unique and special…the very best of creation.
– Give thanks for our families, communities and friends.
– Give thanks for the faith by which we are drawn out of darkness into God’s marvelous light and promise of eternal life.
– Give thanks by our particular calling in life by which we bear fruit.
– Give thanks for those around us…for all those who are easy to love … those in need of our love…and even those not so easy to love.
– Give thanks for Christ, our loving and merciful sovereign.

As we gather for Mass this weekend may our faith point to a God who does care, who is Almighty, who is ruler, and who invites us to be part of God’s everlasting reign. May we always honor our king, listening to the voice of Christ, in our worship and through our service to one another.

Deacon Frank Iannarino

Gospel Reflection Nov 18 – Sr. Teresa

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Gospel Reflection
November 18, 2018

Sunday, November 18

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 13: 24 – 32

Gospel:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“In those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’
with great power and glory,
and then he will send out the angels
and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,
you know that summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the gates.
Amen, I say to you,
this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.

“But of that day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Reflection:
We are coming to the end of the liturgical year. It will end on November 25th, the Feast of Christ the King. Whenever things are drawing to a close we look at the things that need to be tended to and the things that need to end. It is a time to step back, stand still, rethink and re-prioritize. It is a time for “new resolutions.” Keeping that ending in mind, this weekend and next weekend the readings remind us that the world is passing away; it must pass away. It is also a time, at least in our part of the world, when darkness has overtaken the light – despite our effort of “daylight savings time.”

The readings for the next two weekends are examples of apocalyptic literary genre. It is very evident in the reading from Daniel and from the Gospel according to Mark. The word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek language and means “to lift the veil.” A friend of mine put it this way: “Apocalyptic literature suggests what we think we see as true and as reality, in fact, may be obscured by veils. We think we see – but we don’t. We think we know the truth and the way things are – but we don’t. We need vision; we need the veil over our own eyes lifted so we can clearly perceive God’s presence and God’s future coming into our world.”

These readings convey a sense of the “end times.” In the past few months, after hurricanes, tsunamis, uncontrolled fires, volcanoes erupting, mass shootings, etc., I have heard people say, “these are all signs that the end is near.” It is a time when groups we sometimes refer to as Doomsayers come forward to proclaim that the end of the world is imminent.

Apocalyptic writing was never meant to be taken literally. It does not contain secret codes that only a few people know, nor is it meant to predict the future. It is meant to convey hope for people. If we look back over our lives, we will see times when we thought our world was coming to an end. It could have been the death of a loved one, loss of a job, diagnosis of a very serious illness. All kinds of situations when it seemed as if our life was nothing but chaos and it seemed as if God has abandoned us or forgotten us. Most of us, if not all, have experienced dark times in our life and may have wondered if there would ever be any light again. The times when it seems as if everything we trusted in was falling apart. Those times feel very much like the “end times” for us. Times when we wondered if God would live up to God’s promise to be with us always. Or if trusting in God is actually possible? It is so hard to live through the dark times of life; the times when we can see no signs of God’s presence. It is hard to hold onto hope.

Some may feel that way as you read this … maybe things are falling apart in your personal life; some feel that the political situation and climate in our country or in our church seems dismal and in total chaos, feel that that their lives have no signs of light and are surrounded only by darkness. Some may feel that they have hit rock bottom and there is no hope.
The writers using apocalyptic writing style are saying – WAIT! WAIT! God is in charge and goodness and life will win. Hope is always possible. Trusting in God is possible. Believing that God is always faithful is real. God is always in charge. Gradually, we will begin to feel the glimmer of hope begin to burn within us. It might take a lot of fanning for it to get going and we may need others to help us, but hope will prevail. We will begin to see new life, we will begin to move out of the darkness of chaos into the light.

If you have time, go to YouTube and put in Dare Not Fear to Hope – a video reflection. Just sit quietly and listen to the words. One of my favorite verses goes like this: “Do not fear to hope, for though the night be long, the race shall not be to the swift; the fight not to the strong. Look to God when victory seems out of justice’s sight. Look to God whose mighty hand brought forth the day from the chaos of the night.”

Apocalyptic writing is not meant to scare the begeebers out of us (even though some preachers use it that way). It is to give us reason to hope. It “lifts the veil” so that we can see for certain that God is in charge. “In the end everything will be alright. If it is not alright, then it is not the end.” John Lennon

Today we gather, as a faith community and we celebrate God’s constant presence among us – in each other, in the Word and in the Gift of God’s Body and Blood. We gather to be given the food we need to go forth and believe that whatever endings we face, the Spirit will be with us. We gather to lean on each other, to be signs of hope to each other. Don’t worry about the “end of the world” that is God’s prerogative. The world is always coming to an end. We only have today. God is always here and at the same time always coming. Today is the only day we have to “dare to hope.” Today is the only day we have to be faithful.

Sister Teresa Tuite, OP

Gospel Reflection Nov 11 – Msgr. Hendricks

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Gospel Reflection
November 11, 2018

Sunday, November 11

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 12: 41 – 44

Gospel:
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury
and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,
“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more
than all the other contributors to the treasury.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.”

Reflection:
In the readings this Sunday, there are two widows. Both are poor and struggling to survive. The widow in the first reading has prepared to die and her son with her. The widow in the gospel while only able to give a few pennies is willing to part with all she has because she has placed her whole heart in the hands of God. For St. Mark this widow becomes a model of how to live fully for the Lord. The two women in the readings remain nameless because they are the lowest of the society of that time, with no one to care for them and without a future. They do what is necessary to empty themselves of everything for the sake of a higher calling, the one sees in the prophet Elijah, the messenger of God. The widow in the gospel today becomes a Christ figure, anticipating the self-emptying of Jesus on the Cross for our salvation.

The message for those who hear the word of God today is one of trust and self-emptying. Trust in the God who saves us regardless of our circumstances and self-emptying, of how we owe all we have to the one who created and then saved us.

We reflect on these two women and ask ourselves if we to can become a sign of hope and self-emptying in our world, our towns, our homes. What is it that we have to give, because of our faith in Christ, and will we give our all because of what has been given to us?

Monsignor Hendricks

Gospel Reflection Nov 4 – Fr. Morris

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Gospel Reflection
November 4, 2018

Sunday, November 4

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 12: 28B – 34

Gospel:
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Reflection:
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear about the encounter between Jesus and an unnamed Jewish scribe. The fact that he is a scribe indicates he is a man with a rare level of literacy and specialized training. Even today, a good religious scribe is a precious resource. When a modern-day synagogue needs to purchase a new ritual-quality Torah scroll, it can expect to be quoted prices ranging from $20,000 to $60,000. That’s because a traditional sefer Torah scroll is completely handwritten. A specially-trained scribe, using quill and parchment, can labor up to a year in order to complete just one.

So this ancient scribe has probably handwritten the Commandments and other parts of the Torah many times over, laboring at the copying of Moses’ Five Books again and again. His question takes on a special poignancy by the fact that he literally knows the letters of the Commandments backwards and forwards. Maybe he can even write them in his sleep! But unlike some of the Scribes we encounter in the Gospels, this believer is not trying to use a question to trap Jesus or trip him up for some ulterior worldly motive. This scribe is a pious believer who believes in the Torah he labors over, a true “son of Abraham,” “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit” like the disciple Nathaniel. He recognizes that Jesus is explicating the Law and the Prophets in an entirely new way. And so he asks Jesus a honest question and listens carefully to the answer. And he is praised by the Teacher for being a scribe that more than just knowing his trade– how to write the literal letters of the words of the Law– also has the spirit of the Law written on his heart.

As we continue to learn more about the Tree of Life Synagogue attack in Pittsburgh, let us lift up in prayer the victims and families of that senseless tragedy. We Christians worship a Jewish Messiah, whom we proudly proclaim to be “son of David, and son of Abraham.” We continually invoke the intercession of our most loving and protective Jewish mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us pray for all of our Jewish brothers and sisters, asking the One True God — God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — to keep all His children, Jew and Gentile alike, safe from violence and hate.

Fr. Matthew Morris

Gospel Reflection Oct 28 – Deacon Paul

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Gospel Reflection
October 28, 2018

Sunday, October 28

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 46 – 52

Gospel:
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.

Reflection:
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” In today’s Gospel, a blind man by the name of Bartimaeus is desperate for healing, so he boldly cries out to Jesus. He wants the help that he believes Jesus can offer him. Bartimaeus is very much different from that of James and John in the Gospel last week when they asked Jesus to “do for us whatever we ask.” When it comes to understanding what Jesus has come to do, the disciples James and John are more “blind” than Bartimaeus. When Jesus asked him “what do you want me to do for you?” he instead asks not to be seen, but to see — not for honor, but for vision – not to be superior over others, but to become ordinary.

So, what do we want from Jesus? Why are we seeking Him? Do we want wealth? Power? Prestige? Whatever darkness clouds our vision, whatever forces stand between us and salvation, we cannot let anything distract us from the one answer, the only answer that can restore us and make us whole. That answer is the merciful love of God.

Bartimaeus is healed because of his faith in Jesus. Once cured, he abandoned everything and followed Jesus along the road and goes up with Him toward Calvary. He becomes a model disciple for all of us who want to follow Jesus. Even without his eyes, he saw more clearly than those around him. Though he was blind physically he had 20/20 spiritual vision. So, how clear is your vision or are you spiritually blind?

Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection Oct 21 – Deacon Don

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Gospel Reflection
October 21, 2018

Sunday, October 21

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 35-45

Gospel:
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, “We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Reflection:
So often, we can find some deeper truths in stories that even a child can understand its lesson and can begin to apply it into their young lives. The “Little Red Hen” – a nineteenth century folk tale is just one of those stories. The story teaches children the virtues of work ethic and taking personal responsibility. A lesson that James and John seem to miss in today’s Gospel. In the tale, the little red hen finds a grain of wheat and asks for help from the other farmyard animals such as a pig, cat, rat, duck, goose, dog, and goat to help plant it, but they all refuse. At each later phase of the farming process, such as the harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread, the other animals continue to refuse to assist the little red hen. Finally, the hen has completed all the work on her own and asks who will help her eat the bread. This time, all the farmyard animals eagerly line up for the feast even though they did not assist in its long preparation process. The little red hen then announces that since they did not help with the work, they have not earned a place at the table leaving the farmyard animals outside the feast.

Today we see two brothers, who belong to the innermost circle of Jesus’ disciples, trying to curry their own favor with Jesus by suggesting their own position with him in the afterlife. It is clear they had little comprehension of that Jesus would triumph only by emptying himself to the lowest human level before entering into his kingdom. So often, we can see and seek only enjoying the benefits of this life and the next before recognizing the task and its journey as one of hard work and subjugation to the service of others. Leadership in the service of others consists not in what we have, or in what we can get from others, but in what we can give of ourselves to others.

Like James and John and the other disciples, we are all called to be missionaries in our daily lives with our own families, in our own homes, and in our own workplaces. We must be ready to do the work to promote the Gospels as shown us by Jesus and the Father and then bear the burdens asked of us before presuming, like the farmyard animals, a place at the table and the feast.

Deacon Don Poirier

Gospel Reflection Oct 14 – Deacon Alfonso

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Gospel Reflection
October 14, 2018

Sunday, October 14

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 17 – 30

Gospel:
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”
Peter began to say to him,
“We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

Reflection:
In our lives we can come to crossroads in which the decisions that we are faced with paralyzes us. We experience this greater tension even more so whenever what we want to do conflicts with what we ought to do. In today’s reading, we see the deep desire for everlasting life is manifested by the man that approaches Jesus. Jesus in turn gives him the road map to that path of holiness and salvation. When the man expresses that he has already fulfilled these, Jesus raises the bar and his imperfections come to light. He is stuck, unfree to follow Jesus because of his attachments and he becomes sad. But Jesus does not want him to become a lesser version of himself in sacrificing these things. Rather, Jesus knows that we become more of ourselves, and therefore more holy, more joyful more fulfilled in the measure we give of ourselves freely. Thus in order to be free to live the life of holiness, we must give of ourselves freely.

Deacon Alfonso Gámez Alanís

Gospel Reflection Oct 7 – Sr. Teresa

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Gospel Reflection
October 7, 2018

Sunday, October 7

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 2 – 16

Gospel:
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
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.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
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 people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced them and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

Reflection:
There are certain words or phrases that are HOT BUTTONS in religion (outside of politics). Abortion, Death Penalty, Marriage, Same-sex marriage – just to name a few. Another one is the focus of today’s passage – DIVORCE. In any congregation there will be people who are divorced and single, divorced and remarried, should be divorced, engaged couples, single people and married people, widows and widowers. People have very definite views on each and some to the point of demonizing anyone who may have an alternate view or those who can see the grey area in any “black/white” issue. According to Pope Francis, it is not careful legal interpretation but the integration of mercy and justice that is needed when we are encountering people in pain.

It helps to understand the Law that the Pharisees are asking about. Divorce was an issue that was and is and probably always will be debated among religious teachers. In Jewish tradition “debate” is the most common way of probing an issue hoping to discover a deeper and perhaps bigger truth. Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ question with a question. “What does Moses command?” Pharisees were masters of the law; they knew the teaching (their goal was almost always to trap Jesus not to discover a bigger truth). The Mosaic law they are speaking of goes back to Deuteronomy 24:1 – “Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, so he writes her a certificate of divorce….” Ending a marriage was that easy — say “I divorce you” and have the certificate written. Keep in mind that it was only the husband who could do this. Women had no say, no rights and no voice in the matter. “…something objectionable about her,” is the key phrase.

Divorce for a woman of Jesus’ time would put her in dire straits. For the most part women did not own property and were not allowed to work. Marriage would provide them and their children support and protection. On their own they would be hard-pressed to find life’s essentials. Hence, the law was crucial for protection of women and their children from the more powerful forces aligned against them. Jesus always reaches out to protect the most vulnerable.

In the strictest sense it could only be adultery that could lead to divorce, but in practice it could be any reason from the sublime to the ridiculous. Therefore, the law was crucial for protection of women and their children. Women and children were considered property and easily disposed of.

Today we could debate the issue of divorce and remarriage as simply right or wrong, and never get to the underlying pain in a marriage that often leads to divorce. Divorce is serious, and society is affected by a blasé attitude towards it. Society is also affected by a rigid opposition to ending unhealthy and unholy relationships. Divorce involves legal issues, family issues, and deep relationship issues. It is complex and most of it lies in the grey areas of life issues.

Jesus takes the Pharisees back to Genesis and the story of creation. Human beings are meant to be in relationship. To sit in the judgement seat and make “divorce” a black and white issue, is to go right to the letter of the law and miss the spirit of the law, for which Jesus always advocates. We must step back and ask the pastoral questions. We need to know that some marriages should never have been and should not continue. Marriage is a serious commitment. It is not an easy choice and not something that should end without thinking things through.

Marriage is meant to be permanent, but the reality is that many are not and should not be. Many marriages should never have happened. And some should never continue. I have sat with too many people whose lives and families were ruined because they stayed in a bad and almost always toxic marriage. Marriage should not be entered into lightly or casually. Nor should it be ended lightly or casually. It is not easy to be married. The wife and the husband need to work at their marriage, to help it to grow into a holy union; to be mutually faithful; to become one flesh.

Jesus does not reject law. He wants the spirit of the law to have order, structure and to provide nurturing for those most in need. We must ask how we, as a Church, help those who are married to grow in that relationship to make it stronger? Often the emphasis is on pre-Cana and there is barely anything for post-Cana. We also must ask, how we as a Church community walk with those who divorce and, in many cases, remarry?

In speaking of divorce and remarriage, Pope Francis urges that we hold justice and mercy together and not rigidly hold or become obsessed with legal interpretation. Each case needs to be approached with a pastoral heart.

Children are the second part of today’s gospel. Considering our ongoing crisis of clergy abuse of children and the abuse of power on the part of some of the hierarchy of the Church, and our obligations to protect our vulnerable members, Jesus’ words are empowering. One way of “embracing,” and “blessing” children, as Jesus does, is for church members, clergy and laity, to call for full and appropriate disclosure, the removing of violators from working in the church and to do whatever we can to facilitate healing among those who have been betrayed and violated.

Jesus’ rebuke of the behavior of his disciples and his instructions to them about proper behavior towards the least, challenge and empower all of us disciples not to take a “wait and see” attitude, but to do what we can now to move us out of the muck in which we now find ourselves.

POST NOTE
I would encourage those who are suffering the pains of divorce or remarriage make an appointment to talk with Msgr. Hendricks or Fr. Morris or one of our deacons. You might also want to consider joining a DIVORCE CARE GROUP. It is a caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. A new session begins at St. Matthew Church (Gahanna) on October 17, 2018.

Sister Teresa Tuite