6th/7th October 2018

posted 12 Oct 2018, 05:13 by Parish Office

Homily for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

(6 & 7/10/18)


What is marriage?  Some people see it as just being a legal contract, and that like all legal contracts, they think the rules can be changed by legal process.  But if we delve into a bit of history, we see that that can’t possibly be true.  In this country, there was no state registering of marriages until 1837 – that was the point when registry office marriages came into being.  But marriage, in one form or another, has existed since the dawn of time.


Unfortunately, in different places and at different times, marriage has been distorted.  In certain parts of the world, men were allowed to marry more than one woman at the same time, known as polygamy.  In the Roman Empire, the rule was one man and one woman, but whilst the wife was expected to be faithful, the husband was not.  At the time of Christ, women were regarded as property, with no rights, when it came to marriage.  There was no equality.  But Christ does not want things to remain in this mess.  He reminds us that that is not the way it was in the beginning.  Marriage is not something that we invented; rather it was part of God’s original plan.


There’s something beautiful and symbolic in the first reading we heard from the book of Genesis.  The man found that whilst the animals may have certain qualities, they were not a suitable helpmate.  The first woman is then created from the rib of Adam.  She was not created from his head, indicating superiority over Adam; neither was she created from one of his feet, to indicate inferiority.  Rather, she was created from his rib, symbolising equality.  Furthermore, the rib is close to the heart, indicating closeness and love.  Then, there’s also the point made by Adam in Genesis:  “This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!”  At last, here’s someone who is just like me, that I can relate to and will understand me!  No matter which animal you pick, no matter how much of a companion a certain animal might be, it’s just not the same.  People may talk about animal cunning, or the intelligence of certain animals.  But try having a conversation with a horse, and you won’t get very far.  Or with a cat.  Or with a rhinoceros.  Or a porcupine.  Man and woman belong together, and so, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body”.  That rib that was once part of Adam and then used to create Eve, wants to be reunited with him, and for ever.  In the days of Genesis they didn’t do organ transplants or hip replacements.  The union between the body of a man and his ribs was permanent and life-long, and that is how marriage was intended to be, right from the beginning.


Sadly, Adam and Eve mess things up.  Following their choice to eat the forbidden fruit, they disrupt not only their relationship with God, but also with each other.  When God finds out what they have done, Adam blames Eve, and Eve then blames the serpent.  Between man and woman there is now the problem of lust and power, domination and subjugation.  Sin has altered everything for the worse.  But that is not the end, because even at this point, our liberation is predicted, what is sometimes called the protoevangelium, the first inkling of the Good News that was to come, with the crushing of the serpent’s head.


When Christ came, He loved us so much that He didn’t want us to be ensnared by sin and its effects.  Just as the Fall, the first sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis affected the whole human race, meaning we lost God’s grace and became inclined towards evil, so Christ’s Death on the Cross and Resurrection were about helping to reverse all of that.  The idea was not that life continues as before, but that God forgives us.  It was that, through the sacraments, our lives can be changed.  We can grow in holiness and become more like the people God is calling us to be.  But just like Adam and Eve, we have a choice.  We can accept, or reject, what God offers.  Or we can partially accept and partially reject, this offer of grace.


Now I said that it’s through the sacraments that our lives can be changed.  Yes, you’ve probably guessed that that involves baptism, confession and the Eucharist.  But it also involves the sacrament of confirmation, giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we can allow to remain dormant, or make good use of.  It also includes the sacrament of marriage.  Christ didn’t allow marriage to remain the same as it was after the Fall.  He didn’t just say, “come to Church and get married, and receive a nice blessing”.  Marriage is a sacrament, which means that it, too, is now a vehicle of God’s grace.  It is a guaranteed way in which Christ is present in the relationship between a man and a woman.  They won’t be instantaneously perfect just by getting married.  They will bring with them all their faults and failings, their bruises and sore points, on which the grace of Christ needs to work.  At times their lives will be a cross.  But at other times, a source of great joy and fulfilment.  I have found my vocation and this is what I was made for.  “This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh! … This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.”


So is marriage just simply a legal contract?  No, it is much more than that.  The state can register that a marriage has taken place, just the same as registering a birth or a death, but marriage is a much greater reality than any laws can try to explain.  Marriage has its origin in God, and although Original Sin has done its worst, with Christ, marriage can be something holy and beautiful, even in 2018 AD.