THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE: HOMILY FOR THE 27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B)
By Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD
This story struck my mind. A Bishop visited a rural parish on one of his numerous pastoral visits. One of the outstanding activities that usually mark such visits included the administering of the Sacrament of Confirmation. During the homily on the Confirmation day, the Bishop decided to ask the candidates questions to know how vast they were in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He picked candidates randomly and asked any question he wished. The final question he asked was: “What is the Sacrament of Matrimony?” He picked one boy to answer the question and the boy said “Matrimony is a place where souls suffer a while for their sins…!” The catechism instructor stood up and was making effort to signal to the boy that he was giving answer to what is Purgatory not Matrimony. The Bishop instantly asked the instructor not to stop the boy because God could be telling the congregation something about Matrimony through the boy’s misplaced answer!
From the narratives of the first reading (Genesis 2:18-24) and the gospel reading (Mark 10:2-16) we are presented with the issue of marriage. It really seems that we could call today “Marriage Sunday”. It is also upon this platform that our reflection is built. From the first reading, it seemed that God made a “mistake” during the creation as he realized after the creation of Man that he (the Man) needed a helpmate. With this realization, God fashioned wild beasts (animals) and birds of heaven and brought them to the Man to see what he could call them. The man gave them names but none could qualify as a helpmate or companion (Gen.2:19-20). We have to look into this passage very well. God actually wanted the Man to give names to the animals and the birds and his choice of name would indicate that he had found or not found companionship in any of them. It happened that after naming them he could not establish companionship with any of them. So God took another step by making the Man to fall into a deep sleep and from his side he took one of his ribs (that could have been the first surgery ever) and with the rib he had taken from the Man he fashioned another creature and brought the creature to the Man to name. The Man exclaimed this is at LAST (the final point) the bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. He went further to give the creature a name, which is WOMAN because she was taken out of MAN. That was how the first marriage bond was contracted under divine supervision and direction (no bride price was paid). The Woman was actually taken from the Man hence they were not really two but one!
In the gospel reading our Lord Jesus Christ made emphatic statements about the indissolubility of marriage while fielding questions from the Pharisees who wanted to put him to the test. Their question was “is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?” Put in another way, they were asking: “is it right to divide what God has joined together?” In the Law of Moses (Deut 24:1-4) a man can divorce his wife if he no longer likes her. It could be on the grounds of infidelity which requires at least two witnesses, it could even be as irrelevant as bad cooking or breaking of something in the house. Answering the Pharisees our Lord took them back to the beginning. He said in the beginning (we should remember that God is the beginning) God made them male and female. That means in the mind of God a man and a woman should be joined to form one flesh (note very: “a man and a woman” not: “a man and a man” nor: “a woman and a woman”). He concluded by saying that what God has joined no person should put asunder. I wish to take up the issue of putting asunder. The word asunder (adverb) means torn to pieces, apart, divided. In relation to the biblical usage in this context our Lord is saying that what God has joined nobody should torn to pieces or set apart. What we have not yet understood is that PUTTING ASUNDER can happen in two ways; from inside and from outside. It is from inside when either of the couple or both destroy the union by commission or omission. Asunder can happen from outside when someone or some persons outside the union bring destruction to it by commission or omission.
It is most disheartening that divorce and separation have wrecked many marriages. It has become a common phenomenon in our society as innumerable applications for divorce besiege courthouses on daily basis just as marriage tribunals are getting busier every day. Today people are getting married not for better and for worse but as long as the parties are finding it convenient. Problems and challenges are not strange in marriage unions. Adam and Eve who began this enterprise had their challenge at the time they ate the forbidden fruit and their eventual fall (Genesis 3). This did not set them apart as they went further to live together and to procreate.
In most marriages couples are not living together, they are just staying and existing together. Some marriages at most have lost taste and vitality. Problems arise in marriages because from the outset some married for the wrong reasons or the wrong persons. There is a story about two married women who went out for lunch break. While they were eating one of them discovered that her friend was wearing her wedding ring on the wrong finger and she inquired: “Hey you are wearing your wedding ring on the wrong finger!” The other immediately replied “Yes because I married the wrong man!” It is a fact that marriages are crumbling because those who went into it did so with some motives that have no relationship with love. Love here is not merely based on physical and material attributes (for instance what you see or feel) which are bound to fade. The love that we mean is the one St. Paul took time to examine in 1 Cor 13:1-13. Among other things St. Paul established that love is patient and kind, selfless, truthful, hopeful, it neither is jealous, irritable nor glory in evil things. (4-7).
There is no doubt that some people are in purgatory in the name of marriage as the boy who answered the bishop indicated. As a married man or woman if you cannot find happiness in your home you are in a serious problem. The following points can be helpful to recreate your marriage:
- Married life should be enjoyed not endured.
- Married life should be celebrated not tolerated.
- If there is no TRUST in your marriage it will RUST.
- If you are not patient in your marriage you will have pain.
- If you don’t have a common vision you will have common division.
- If you stop growing together you will start growing apart.
- If you stop loving you start losing.
- If you stop praying together you will start perishing together.
- If you fail to understand yourselves you will not withstand yourselves.
- I am sorry can solve problems and stop fights.
- Understand your differences and help each other to grow together.
- If your marriage has not been blessed that hour has come to do so (do not give the devil an opportunity 1 Pet 5:8).
- Be careful with the following modern necessary distractions in marriage: friends, television, mobile phones and internet!
Instructions for Men.
- Love your wives (Col.3:19).
- Appreciate your wife (her looks, clothes, etc)
- Look at her face often and call her pet names (women need attention like little children).
- Buy something for her (even a wrap of candy can change her mood).
- Make yourself available at home (you are needed at home).
- Pray and play with your wife and children (a pillow fight does not hurt).
Instructions for Women
- Respect your husbands (Col 3:18).
- Do not be making so many demands (Don’t compare your husband with other men be content with what he has)
- Minimize talking too much (we know it is your natural gift).
- Do not form alliance with your kids against your husband (the kids may fight you later).
- The growth or failure of the marriage is more in your hands (handle with care).
I wish you all a blissful Sunday and a blessed week ahead as you work towards recreating you marriages.