Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Two become One Flesh.


Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

In this Sunday's Gospel reading the Pharisees approach Jesus to "test" him with a difficult moral question. "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" Although divorce was an accepted practice at the time of Jesus, if we search the Old Testament scriptures they nowhere command or directly authorize the practice of divorce. Deuteronomy 24 does prescribes how a "bill" of divorce was to be given for the protection of the woman involved, since it was the prerogative of the husband to initiate the procedure. The Rabbis were divided over the precise grounds on which a husband might issue a bill of divorce. One school argued that this could only take place on the grounds of marital infidelity, while the more common position advocated a no fault clause that allowed a man to divorce his wife for any reason. Faced with a moral dilemma created by culture and not Sacred Scripture, Jesus takes an unexpected position.

Jesus asks them, "What did Moses command you? Jesus use of the word "command" is noted and the Pharisees reply instead, "Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." The Law merely regulates the practice, apparently tolerating it. Jesus takes the debate a step further by noting that this concession was because of the "hardness of their hearts." He then turns the discussion back to the original nature of the human person "from the beginning of creation."

Our most fundamental understanding of the human person does not flow from cultural norms or common practice but from our nature as creatures created in the image of God. Pope John Paul II recognized a new horizon for understanding the nature of the human person based on the Genesis account, as did the fathers of the second Vatican Council. John Paul II's reflections on this theme are found primarily in a collection of catechetical address on the Theology of the Body. Recently Carl Anderson and José Granados have written an excellent introduction to this thought entitled, Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

In the first reading From Genesis the Lord says, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him" (Genesis 2:18). Even though creation is itself "good" the man is left in a state of aloneness or original solitude which is judged to be "not good." Although man's original solitude is in part resolved by the creation of Eve, "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23), his solitude is greater than this. Anderson and Granados point out that "the term 'original solitude' underscores man's uniqueness when compared to other kinds of beings" and highlights "man's special relationship with the creator" (p. 27). Our first reading also points out that Adam's discovery of his original solitude comes about through his bodily experience of the world, it is revealed in the human body.

Before becoming the pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, noted that while the whole of creation offers the "sacrificium laudis" (Psalm 66:4) or the 'sacrifice of praise' to God, man "becomes the living expression of the glory of God" (cf. Psalm 116:17; Hebrews 13:15). Man becomes the special means which gathers together "the homage paid to the Lord by the whole of creation" (Sign of Contradiction). Man takes on a priestly role as a spokesperson or sacrament who speaks on behalf of the created world. Later Pope John Paul II observes that the aloneness of man and the desire to create a helper or partner for him (Genesis 2:18, 20) point to man's existence as "a relation of reciprocal gift" (TOB 14.1). Adam does not only exist with someone but for someone. "Communion of persons means living in a reciprocal "for," in a relationship of reciprocal gift." (TOB 14.2)

The next aspect of man's nature revealed in these texts is our original unity. This is Jesus' primary point in Mark's Gospel account. Jesus quotes from both creation accounts, "God made them male and female" (Genesis 1:27) and in marriage "the two shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Jesus astounds his disciples concluding, "what God has joined together, no human being must separate." The indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage is based on the unity of the communion of persons experienced by a man and women in marriage. The two become one flesh. As Pope John Paul II points out,

So it is that there are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined let man not separate." That phrase, "let man not separate," is decisive. In the light of this word of Christ, Genesis 2:24 states the principle of the unity and indissolubility of marriage as the very content of the word of God expressed in the most ancient revelation. (TOB 1.3).

Man's original unity also points to our bodily constitution as either male or female. Masculinity and femininity are two different "incarnations" (TOB 8.1) in which the same human being is created in the "image of God" (Genesis 1:27). This again points to the communion of persons as "two reciprocally completing ways of 'being a body'" (TOB 10.1).

The original unity of the human couple points to the mystery of our unity with Christ. As the council fathers remind us, "The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, (Roman 5:14) namely Christ the Lord."(GS 22). The unity and indissolubility of marriage is a sign of God's own gift of his Son. Sacred Scripture connects this to Christ, " . . . 'the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:31-32). Holy Mary Queen of the family. St. Joseph guardian and protector of the family. Pray for us.

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