27th Sunday in Ordinary Time B21
Recently there has been opposing letters in The Rivereast concerning the Bible; on the one hand questioning its authenticity and on the other defending its view of history. While some arguments on both sides have a bit of validity, both sides show a lack of understanding about what the Bible is and what it is not.
The Bible, particularly Genesis, borrows themes addressed in other ancient accounts from various cultures. For example, anyone who reads the 1st two chapters independent of each other should recognize they are different accounts of the same “event”. Certainly it has some of the details from other cultures, but it uses them in a way unique to Hebrew culture and belief. For example, in Genesis: 1, God speaks and it happens, no struggle, no drama, no other gods, as in other stories of creation. It has light being created before the sun and moon (a fact that sceptics like to point out) to emphasize that they are not gods to be worshipped but servants of humanity, marking times and seasons.
In Genesis 2, we encounter a more hands-on God who forms out the earth a human being and breathes the spirit of life into him. Man gets to name all creatures as God make them, searching for a companion. By naming them, man is showing his superiority over them. Then God casts the man into a deep sleep, takes a rib, and builds a woman who God presents to the now wide awake man who exclaims this is the one who is bone and flesh like himself. They are equals!
The bible does not claim to be about historic facts but the meaning of reality. In Gen.1 man and woman, created simultaneously, were creation’s crowning image of God. In Gen.2, the author reflected more on what we can be for one another. Jesus knew that and explained that, as symbolized in marriage, human beings were created for one another. Gen. 1 and 2 teach that God placed human beings in creation to enjoy and grow in communion with one another in imitation of the Triune God.
Now the elephant in the room: Because Jesus spoke his ban on divorce in a particular historical context in answer to a particular challenge, it would be a stretch to apply that teaching literally and in detail to other times, places, and cultures. While some will hear Liturgy of the Word as a reason for enforcing the letter of the law, setting limits on what can be done or not in our Church re: communion, by way of example, others may concentrate on the Genesis vision of the potential for union with God and one another and Jesus’ challenge to esteem each person as a unique gift of God.
In an ideal world, there would be no divorce. In the world in which we live, it is a reality. In his reflection on the marriage synod, The Joy of Love, Pope Francis called for a more pastoral approach to the divorced and remarried which caused a storm of criticism by those who believe the letter of the law (the “innies”) and a bit of hope for those who come to the banquet of the Lord and are denied partaking of the spiritual food that is offered (the outies”) I prefer the pastoral approach.