Thursday, 4 October 2012

Let no-one put asunder

GospelMark 10:2-16 
Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’
  People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

When the Pharisees decide to ask Jesus on the matter of divorce they are testing him, again.  They are asking a question to which they certainly know the answer - men often 'dismissed' their wives  - and the Pharisees knew it.  So why ask it? 
Rather than reply, Jesus takes this question a step further - to a common claim of the early prophets - that the relationship of man and woman is an echo of the covenant between God and humanity. A relationship that is as full of desire and longing as the Song of Songs suggests. However, one that, unfortunately,  does not always live up to the dream of that song. 

 'I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.'

 And further, Jesus suggests that the faults in that relationship are as one-sided and self serving as the divorces of that time; the oral tradition of the Talmud allowed a man to divorce his wife for any reason or for no reason. Whilst the approval of the Rabbi would be required; it was generally understood that the wishes of the man were uppermost.

Since the beginning of time we have been in a relationship where God, having  chosen us as his own,  is unfailingly and eternally faithful in both love and commitment. Whereas, we humans are so easily distracted by a golden calf, promise of wealth or fear of being the odd one out that, all too often,  we rush to accuse God of 'not understanding' our needs or meeting our desires.  

We look for ways of marginalising that love and reject the responsibility it places on us. Love, it seems, expects too much. What God has united; humanity does seek to divide.

It's interesting that by using divorce as his reference; Jesus puts God in the place of the woman - the one who is put aside; who had no control over her future; whose 'belonging' is conditional. 

And then, Jesus sees the children and there is the relationship that his Father desires; in the smallest of children. In those who - before that sense of value, of judgement, of desire, of prejudice or of competition  has time to form - can see who is good and can, quite simply and unconditionally, love.  

'Our Father, who art in Heaven..'

in Jesus' name



Lynda said...

Word, thank you for this explanation;it will be helpful when I discuss this Gospel with the RCIA inquirers next Tuesday.

Word in the Hand said...

You are welcome Lynda - I hope it gives them somethng to think about - blessings