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Our Gospel this Sunday is one that always makes at least some people cringe when it is read. It is also the stuff of most preachers’ nightmares. It deals with the difficult issue of divorce. It begins with the Pharisees’ approaching Jesus with the question: “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” Jesus responded by asking them what Moses had commanded. They replied: “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” Jesus then told them that Moses had done this because of the “hardness of their hearts.” He then quoted from the book of Genesis (our first reading today) and concluded with the statement. “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
Since most of our lives have been touched by divorce in one way or another, Jesus words in this Gospel can be hard to hear. It is important to note, though, both what Jesus said, as well as what he didn’t say. In this regard, Jesus was reaffirming our belief that God blesses the union of two people who commit themselves to one another in marriage. God offers them the grace they need to make and live out the commitment of marriage. Sometimes, though, for whatever reason people are not able to live out the marital commitment and divorce ensures. In this regard, it is important to note that Jesus does not say that is our place to criticize them or worse to sit in judgement of them. Prayer for and with married couples and those who have gone through or are going through a divorce is the appropriate response.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Genesis. It is the story of the creation of a “suitable partner” for Adam. Jesus referenced this story in our Gospel today.
For our second reading this Sunday we move from the Letter of St. James, which we have been reading from the past several weeks to the Letter to the Hebrews. In the section we read this Sunday we are reminded of Jesus’ divinity as well as his humanity. “He ‘for a little while’ was made ‘lower than the angels,’ that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- How many people do you know who are divorced?
- How can someone who is divorced find good news in today’s Gospel?
- How would you respond if someone who was divorced asked you about today’s Gospel?