The 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 3 October 2021
Lectionary Readings: Gen. 2:18-24; Ps. 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6; Heb. 2:9-11; Mark. 10:2-16
Theme: We are called to be one
The The First Reading of this twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, is taken from the book of Genesis, chapter 2 which is considered to be the second story of Creation. Not only is the narrative style different from chapter 1 but also the content. Here the text focuses more on the figure of Man – Adam (אדם) instead of time and the whole of creation. Man here means humanity, a human being. From this Adam – humanity God separated physically man-ish (-ישmale) and woman- ishah (ישה- female) v. 23. This is not a question of gender dualism and for this reason; we should not let our modern eyes contaminate the message which is quite clear in v. 24: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh. In other words, ish and ishah, both man and woman were created as one Adam – humanity and although separated physically they are both called, as a vocation to be united – to be one.
The Gospel approaches the same theme of union between man and woman and even quotes the same passage of Gen. 2: 24. However, before that, we should look at the fact of the children who all of a sudden appear in the middle of the text. We see all over the Gospels a kind of competition regarding what in Judaism is called the Halacha which is the body of the Jewish Religious Law (part of the Oral Torah). Within the Oral Tradition, it is not problematic having two or more interpretations on the same topic- law; to the contrary, it is well known and common in the Jewish milieu to have different points of view for example allowing or not allowing divorce. Some rabbis could say yes whereas other rabbis could say no. In other matters, this ongoing debate is a current practice within Judaism featuring the Jewish culture. The image of children is brought up then exactly because children are malleable to be instructed and educated and so we understand Jesus words “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it”, meaning: those coming to Jesus asking for his feedback in different matters should come to him as a child to be oriented and not as someone looking for contradiction with no intention of learning but only wanting to debate and so hoping to show in the end who the winner among the different perspectives is.
Regarding the main topic on divorce, this was a discussion held even before Jesus’ time. According to the Talmud the well-known rabbis Shammai and Hillel would disagree on it while “Beit Shammai” (house of Shammai) held that a man may only divorce his wife for a serious transgression, but Beit Hillel (house of Hillel) allowed divorce for even trivial offenses, such as burning a meal. Jesus as a rabbi gave a point of view on the discussion that was not yet concluded; according to him based on the text of Genesis 2: 24 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”, for we should try to be faithful to the purpose of Creation and remind ourselves that “all have one origin” Heb. 2: 11.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Do the instructions we receive allow us to live as a child willing to enter the kingdom of God? 2. Matrimony is an indissoluble Sacrament based on Genesis and in Jesus’ teaching. How challenging is it to witness to this value today?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965). Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 90a (the debate of Shammai and Hillel about the divorce).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Fr. Tiago R. Cardoso, NDS, Israel, Bat Kol Alumnus: July 2017