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What God Has Joined Together: No Man Must Put Asunder
By Father Robert Pecotte October 8, 2006
Readings for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1: Gen. 2:18–24
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 128:1–2, 3, 4–5, 6
Reading 2: Heb. 2:9–11
Gospel: Mk. 10:2–16 or 10: 2–12
Last week I discovered something that I should not have had to discover. I should have known it and in fact did know it, I had just never taken the time to sit and really think about it. What am I talking about? I used a word in my homily that made a lot of people in the pew cringe and not too few of them frown and some of them even looked at me with--—well, let’s just say a less-than-loving look on their face. What word did I use? Was it abortion, homosexuality, pornography, euthanasia, greed, lust, war? Nope, though I did use many of those words as well; I said the “D” word, divorce, and called it what it is: an abomination.
People have become used to us priests (in North Dakota anyway) talking about those other things, and to be sure there are a few who get upset with us for it, but most of the people who come to Mass have come to expect some amount of it. (For example, last week was Respect Life Sunday.) However, I am afraid that we have gotten so used to dividing what God has joined that when we hear that we should not do so, we react in a less-than-humble fashion. I wonder how many of my parishioners are divorced, how many more than once, and how many are getting ready to divorce?
Our first reading began with the Lord saying, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” And then He proceeded to form all of the animals. Huh? Did God not realize that Adam would not find in the animals a suitable partner? Of course God knew what He was about; however, Adam needs to learn who Adam is and what he is to be about. So, God brings him all of the animals, and Adam gives them their names and identities. In doing so, he discovers that he is alone among all of God’s creation and that nothing else is like him. In other words, he is like God: unique, solitary, and the giver of creation’s identity. Adam is in God’s image and likeness for he takes a positive role in creation and gives the living creatures their identities, which is exactly what God did for Man/Adam.
After Man has discovered that he is unique, God furthers His image and likeness in Man by creating woman, which makes Man (humanity) a personal-relational-being, like God who is a Trinity. There is One God who is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are in a perfect relationship of Love. All are equal in dignity, and yet the Father is the head. Just as Man was taken from the earth (the earth being the seedbed for Man) so, Woman is taken from Man. Man himself is the seedbed for woman, yet from now on woman will be the seedbed for all the living. (That is why Adam names his wife Eve. Notice that in naming her, Adam gives Eve her identity; he continues His role in creation, even with his wife. Notice also that Eve is the image and likeness of Adam.) It is only when God created Woman that Man discovers in himself the capacity for a personal relationship with another who is other and yet is his equal. God is the source of all and the end of all, and yet man cannot be in an equal relationship with God, as He is infinitely greater than man. So, God creates Woman to further Man (both male and female) in his identity as God’s very own image and likeness.
Man and woman were created for each other. In relating with each other they learn how God is a relational being of Love, for they are God’s image and likeness. God is not male and female; He is non-corporeal and therefore has no sexual identity. However, He is Father--—that is, He is the sower of the seed, the giver of life, and all of creation has its being and identity in His being and identity. In other words, creation exists in God’s existence and takes its identity from Him; He is God and we (and the rest of creation) are not. Our identity is derived from God’s identity; He is the “I AM WHO AM” and we, in our individuality, are “i am who exist in the I AM.” Or, bluntly put, we are the ‘i am who am not.”
We are created by God for God, and our very own being demonstrates God’s nuptial Love for us, His holy Bride. He is the author of our sexuality, and He does nothing without a purpose. Marital love is a foreshadowing, or better still, an invitation to an eternal nuptial feast with God. Incredible! How can this be? Through the Incarnation of the eternally begotten Son of the Father, who takes our nature so that we can share in His:
Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 Jn. 3:2)
Remember, in order for humanity to enter into a personal relationship, we need another person to relate with. Ultimately this person is God Himself, but we need to become like Him to enter into a true relationship with Him. We become like Him when we behold Him face to face, which is the exact nature of the relationship between husband and wife, a mutual face-to-face beholding, or the revealing of the self to the other.
This is why divorce is an abomination before God: it is a lived lie about Man’s relationship with God and God’s relationship with Man! God does not divorce His bride! He woos her back to Himself after she has gone astray and forgives her iniquity (even her adultery) and indeed even sacrifices His life for Her, so that she might share His divine life. (Think of the Cross.) Every time a divorce happens, an existential lie about God’s relationship with Man is told, and we end up not reflecting God to each other, and so we get even more confused about our own identity. After all, we are in His image and likeness, so when we distort the image, our perception of the one being imaged gets distorted as well.
Why are there so many divorces? (Most experts agree that 5 out of 10 marriages are currently ending in divorce and 7 out of 10 second marriages are ending in divorce. That’s a lot of lies about God and Humanity being told!) Why are so many willing to abandon the one whom they said they would love through good times and bad, rich or poor, sick or in health, until death do they part? (Similarly, why are so many priests and religious willing to abandon their vocations?) Simply put, it is because they have never matured beyond self-centeredness to truly become other-centered (which is of course why their children are in so much trouble). Love needs to move beyond the romantic stage to truly become Love. Notice that God doesn’t dump us after we disgust Him (after the Fall, or whenever we sin). God is not selfish. He is not in the relationship for the good feelings He gets out of it, but rather He is in the relationship to give Himself to the other (us) so that the other might share His life.
Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, is made perfect by what He suffers, and so too are we, as individuals and as husband and wife.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering. (Heb. 2:10)
Why is it fitting that Jesus be made perfect by suffering, and what does that mean? It is fitting because Jesus’ suffering is suffering brought about by loving us to the point of dying for us: His love is a mature spousal love. The Bridegroom lays down His life for His Bride. He is made perfect in effecting our salvation, for it is only betrothed love, or sacrificial/agape love that brings about salvation.
True spousal love contains three elements: romantic love, friendship love and betrothed love. The first is the “mushy gushy” emoting stage, which is beautiful but immature. Unfortunately, many people think spousal love principally consists of romantic love, and therefore when it ends, their marriage ends with it. The second, friendship, endures beyond the good feeling stage and becomes a mature reflective sharing between two who are truly striving to become one. (Notice that this should happen before any sexual encounter.) This can only come about when the man and the woman learn to trust each other by trusting God. It is characterized by a greater revelation of the self to the other, one that is beyond the sexual/bodily/emotional revelation. It is a spiritual revelation of one soul to another. In the third stage, betrothed love, the soul actually becomes one with the other in a mystical/spiritual way; the other becomes the center of the self. This love leads to the sacrifice of the self for the other and perfectly mirrors the divine love of God (which is perfectly demonstrated in God’s constant fidelity to His covenant with Man, even when it means suffering and death).
There is such a great need for us to know who we are and who God is. It is apparent that we have forgotten, otherwise we would not be suffering the scourge of divorce and the resulting destruction of the family. We are God’s children, yet how many children are growing up right now in a home that is devoid of true love and therefore devoid of God? How are they ever supposed to know who and why they are? We need to start saying “no” to our self-centered, immature, and ridiculous culture and start saying “yes” to true mature love with our spouses and with our God. Oftentimes this means saying no to our own wants and desires. It starts with the priesthood, which is the model of heavenly love, for in heaven we are all directly betrothed to God, not each other. Then it moves to the laity, one couple at a time. How about being one of the first?
Fr. Robert Pecotte is a priest of the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota. Fr. Pecotte recommends the following websites: www.roadtocana.com and www.maritalhealing.com.
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