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Flesh of my Flesh: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Johanna Hatch

As someone who’s family has been shaped by divorce and remarriage, and as an advocate for same-sex marriage, this week’s Sunday readings seem like a particularly difficult pill to swallow. The first reading, from the second chapter of Genesis, is the creation story that so many are familiar with from our early days of religious instruction – but it is also the passage that is perhaps most commonly used to justify restricting marriage to heterosexual couples on religious grounds. In the gospel passage from Mark, Jesus quotes this story when asked by the Pharisees if it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife.

At the same time, it’s hard to state how lovely and poetic I find these passages. The aching of Adam for community and companionship, the recognition of someone who he can share his life with, when he cries out, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” It’s no mystery why this is such a common reading at weddings.

The passage for Mark is much more difficult to navigate. On the surface, it seems like a blanket prohibition of all divorce, but on closer examination, it becomes something much more challenging. While Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife and dismiss her, Jesus tells the Pharisees that it was “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.”

The crux of Jesus’ condemnation of divorce is an examination of how we should treat each other in relationship. Jesus is condemning the act of treating another person as if they are disposable. By being willing to critique the law of Moses, Jesus shows that God continues to work in the world to perfect our understanding of God’s nature and how we should behave as children of the divine. At one point, it was lawful for a man to dismiss his wife and send her away (a woman had no such reciprocal right), but Jesus says that those who follow him cannot use each other and cast each other off so easily.

In a time and place where “traditional” understandings of marriage are struggling and same-sex couples are fighting for recognition for their marriages before the church and the state, perhaps this week’s readings can take on a more radical meaning than we’ve traditionally given them. How can we deny committed couples to right to proclaim with joy, “This one, at last!”? Can we change our perception of what matters about a marriage – not the sex of the spouses, nor even the length of the marriage, whether or not it can be sustained – but how we treat each other?

Let us be known not for the hardness of our hearts, but for our delight in companionship and community.

Picture source: http://assets.nydailynews.com/img/2008/10/11/alg_gay_marriage.jpg


One Response

  1. Hey Johanna!

    You are so right – Beautifully stated. It is great to see you posting here – need to get back to the other blog!

    Hope all is well!

    peace to you!

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