4th October 2015
The first reading comes at the beginning of the Bible (Genesis chapter 2, verses 18 to 24), just after the beautiful poem about God’s work of creation which He saw as very good. The passage is an extract from a story about the creation of people and their fall from grace. The extract tells of God after creating a man, making all the animals, but finally forming a woman as a suitable partner for him; it ends with an expression of the most desirable arrangement for marriage in the situation of the writer and of the original hearers of the story, with the need to keep their numbers up and to have a close knit community – “.. a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to a wife, and they become one body;” a similar family situation is the blessing of the Psalm (128) which is used as a response to the reading.
Singing of the wonderful works of God in Psalm 8, the Jews would recall that humans were made just a little lower than angels and were to be crowned with glory and splendour. But the writer of our second reading (Hebrews, chapter 2, verses 9 to 11) realises that prior to the coming of Jesus humans had failed to live up to this grand position they had been given in God’s creative scheme. As a Christian with knowledge of the Hebrew bible, the writer chose a legitimate alternative translation of ‘a little lower than’ and applied verse 5 of psalm 8 to Jesus, writing that He was ‘for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour’ – the Son of God was made man (human), lived and died and is now risen and seated at the right hand of God. The reading then says that now there is a human like ourselves, Who can lead us who are failing, along the way to salvation – that Person is Jesus Christ, the Word of God.
In the gospel reading (Mark, chapter 10, verses 2 to 16), Mark tells his readers of Pharisees coming to Jesus to question Him about divorce. There were at the time two different views among Jewish groups, both accepting that a man could give a writ of divorce to his wife according to the Law (Deut 24:1ff), but one group thought this was only in the case of her adultery, the other in the case of much lesser dissatisfaction. Mark writes that Jesus replied by referring to the original plan of God that was written in Genesis (and is the last part of the first reading) adding that the Law they referred to was only an inferior application because of human weakness. In the story, the disciples are surprised and quiz Jesus when they are alone, but He re-affirms his original reply and even adds that a woman shouldn’t divorce a man (something not really thought possible by most Jews). It is likely that this whole issue was a matter of some discussion in the early church, for in Matthew’s gospel, in a parallel story, Jesus seems to support the Deuteronomy ruling. Much earlier, when Paul thought the plan of God was about to be completed and the world come to an end, he wrote that it was best not to marry at all, though if one did, the rights of husband and wife over each other were equal. So even in the early church there were different views about marriage and divorce.