Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’
Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’
People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.
Gospel for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Scriptures remind us again and again of the complexity – and sometimes the sheer mess – of human relationships. They remind of the love of God, and the call of all humankind to live in perfect love – despite everything!
The dispute above about the rights and wrongs of divorce is a dispute within Judaism. Does Jesus take one side or another within that dispute? Or does he point to something above and beyond the laws and rules adopted by any particular community, or how they might best be applied to any particular relationship.
In his private words to the disciples he admits and applies the description of failure and guilt – to do this or that is to be guilty of adultery. We are called to something better, higher: we are asked to be more generous, more forgiving, more tolerant.
But if, when, we fail, that failure is not the end. When, if we do, we break the law of God, we are not finished. We still are called by the Lord to himself. Still we are called by him to seek to heal and repair what is broken, not just in our own lives, but beyond us… Every present moment is the opportunity to receive grace to begin, once more to begin.
Life continues, and likewise the call for us to become like God in our loving and in our living.
- Where have you found grace to move beyond failure and mass?
- When have you helped others to do the same?
Sarah leading Hagar to Abraham. Adriaen van der Werff. Hermitage, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.