27th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle B)
All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).
God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).
The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: Unbreakable Fidelity
Fidelity is one of the hallmarks of true love. God sanctified fidelity in the institution of marriage between one man and one woman as told in our First Reading. It is in the institution of marriage that a man and a woman become God's partners in perpetuating the human race. In the sacrament of matrimony, man and woman become "one flesh" (Gen 2:23; Mt 19:5; Mk 10:7). "Flesh" in the Bible can stand for the whole person; hence, "become one flesh" refers to more than the physical union. It indicates also the total oneness of two persons the "fruit" of which is children.
The Second Reading is the first of seven Sundays when we will read from the Letter to the Hebrews. The inspired writer, which most Fathers of the Church identified as St. Paul, gave what was probably a homily to the Jewish-Christian church in Jerusalem that was copied and distributed as a letter to other Christian faith communities. The inspired writer wants Jewish Christians to grow in fidelity of unity with Gentile-Christians. In today's passage he describes what Jesus has done for all Christians: Christ tasted death for the cause of our salvation so that Christians might be consecrated in His blood to be brothers/sisters in the family of God.
The First Reading and the Psalm prepare us for the Gospel Reading. The Responsorial Psalm pictures the ideal marriage as God intended it to be as a man and his wife are a lifetime blessing for each other and to the fruit of their union—their children. In the Gospel Reading, Jesus defines marriage as God intended marriage to be defined when He instituted marriage by officiating at the marriage of Adam and Eve. And Jesus defines divorce as a violation of the order God created. The teaching on marriage is followed by a teaching on the fruit of marriage which is children; they are precious to God and Jesus uses a little child as a metaphor for the attitude of a Christian in his relationship of humility, fidelity, love and trust with God the Father.
The First Reading Genesis 2:18-24 ~ The Origin of the
Institution of Marriage
18 The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." 19 So the LORD God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man. 21 So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, 23 the man said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called 'woman,' for out of her man this one has been taken." 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.
For the first time in the Genesis narrative in verse 18, God judges something "not good" (lo tov in Hebrew); whereas in the prologue, every aspect of the Creation was judged as good and the seventh day as "very good" (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25 and 31). It is not good that man should be alone. God formed the animals from the dust of the earth, as He formed man, but God does not animate these creatures with His breath/spirit. The difference between the souls of the animals and the soul of man is that man possesses an immortal soul from the very breath of God (Gen 2:7). Notice that the sequence differs from Genesis 1:24-27. The prologue account is not in conflict with Genesis 2:7 and 19. It simply means that the creation of man and the beasts is not chronological, as it appears in these verses, but that the creation of man and the beasts was probably simultaneous. God is not limited as we are in our works; the chronological unfolding of time is a condition in which man lives. Since man is made out of the same matter as the animals, it cannot be claimed that man's creation was in any way divine—Adam is not a man-god. It is his immortal soul, a gift of the breath/spirit of God, that animates him, and it is his adoption as a divine son through his covenant relationship with God that infuses him with grace and makes him a partaker in the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity.
19b and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. God paraded the animals before Adam as the man named each of the creatures. God blessed man with dominion over the creatures of the earth (Gen 1:27-30), and in naming the animals Adam was asserting his dominion.
20b but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man. It was God's intention to provide a "helper" in the gift of a "suitable" companion for man. God knew that among the animals there was not a suitable "helper" equal to Adam, but Adam, in viewing each animal with its mate, needed to come to the realization that an animal was not a "suitable" companion and that he was not complete without his own female counterpart. The word translated as "suitable" in verse 20 is in Hebrew negdo, a word more literally rendered as "equal and adequate" (Genesis, Waltke, page 88). God created men and women to be different in their sexuality, but He created them both in His image and likeness to be equal to each other as human persons. Their shared vocation was to serve God, to subdue the earth and its creatures, and to perpetuate the human race. Adam's realization that he needed a partner (after naming the animals) prepared him to receive and to appreciate his gift of the virgin bride who, as resident of the garden Sanctuary, Adam would be obligated to guard and protect (see Gen 2:15-17; CCC 369 and 371-373).
22 The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. In verses 21-25, God made man fall into a deep sleep and created Adam's partner. In describing the creation of the woman from Adam's rib, Genesis 2:22 does not use the word "create," bara, nor does the text employ the word "made," asah (Gen 1:7, 16, 25, 31; 2:2, 3, 4). Instead, in the Hebrew text, God "built" the woman from Adam's rib. In Hebrew this word is banah. It is the same Hebrew word that will be used to describe the building of altars of sacrifice and incense for Yahweh, and also in the building of the Temple in Jerusalem (i.e. Gen 12:7-8; 13:18; 22:9; 26:25; Ex 17:15; 24:4; etc.; 1 Kg 2:26; 3:2; 5:19/5; 8:17-19, 20; etc.). Commenting on the unusual selection of this word, St. Augustine (354-430) saw the "building" up of Eve from the body of Adam as prefiguring Christ's unity with the Church as part of His Body: "'Built' is the very word the Scripture uses in connection with Eve: 'He built the rib into a woman.' So too St. Paul speaks of 'building up the body of Christ,' which is his Church. Therefore woman is as much the creation of God as man is. If she was made from the man, this was to show her oneness with him; and if she was made in the way she was, this was to prefigure the oneness of Christ and the Church" (City of God, 22.17; St. Augustine referred to Ephesians 4:12 and 5:32 in this passage).
St. Jerome (c. 347-420) also recognized the prefiguring of Christ and His Church in the Genesis 2:22 passage: "'God took a rib from the side of Adam and made it into a woman.' Here Scripture said 'built.' The concept of building intends to denote the construction of a great house; consequently Adam's rib fashioned into a woman signifies, by apostolic authority, Christ and the Church" (Homilies 66). And the Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the unique link between the creation of Adam's bride, brought to life from his side, and the Bride of Christ, the Church, brought into being from the pierced side of the Savior: "The Church is born primarily of Christ's total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. 'The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.' 'For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.' As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam's side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross" (CCC 766; quoting from Lumen gentium 3 and Sacrosanctum concilium 5).
23 the man said:
"This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall
be called 'woman,' for out of her man this one has been taken." 24 That is why a man leaves his father and
mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.
In verses 23-24 Adam immediately comprehended in God's gift that she was not only like him, she was part of him. He recognized that he was incomplete without her. He gave her the title: "out of man," the meaning of the word "woman." Later he will name her "Eve" (mother of all the living) in Genesis 3:23. In the presentation of the gift of the virgin bride to Adam as man's partner in life, God has instituted marriage and defined it as a spiritual and physical union between one man and one woman.
In Jesus' teaching about the Sacrament of Marriage in Matthew 19:3-6 and Mark 10:2-12 (in our Gospel Reading), He quoted from Genesis 2:24. Jesus said: "6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become on flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate" (Mk 10:6-9). God is the author of marriage, and any attempt to redefine the nature and institution of marriage is to act in opposition to the will of God.
Responsorial Psalm 128:1-6 ~ Blessed are Those who Fear
Response: "May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives."
1 Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways! 2 For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table.
4 Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. 5 The LORD bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
May you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel!
"Fearing the Lord" is to fear offending God and keeping His commandments. It is an expression of love and fidelity. The blessing promised in verses 2-4 is a happy family life and peace between parents and their healthy children. The reverence shown to God and the resulting blessings will keep the covenant people safe and give the individual a long life with the joy of seeing his children's children (verses 5-6).
The Second Reading Hebrews 2:9-11 ~ Christ our Brother
Brothers and sisters: 9b... he who "for a little while" was made "lower than the angels," that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation [made] perfect through suffering. 11 He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them "brothers"...
In verse 9, the inspired writer states that the Son of God was for a little while made lower than the angels by becoming full man. And then he reassures the faithful by saying that Jesus is now crowned with glory and honor because he submitted to death, so that by God's grace His experience of death should benefit all humanity. The phrase "taste of death," uses the primary verb geuomai [pronounced ghyoo'-om-ahee], meaning "to taste" and by implication "to eat", or figuratively as "to experience." The concept of 2:9b was introduced in the exordium in Hebrews 1:1-14. In that passage, the inspired writer announced that the Son was exalted because He suffered death, and unlike the rule of an ordinary king which ended with death, Jesus began His reign with His self-sacrificial death on the Cross—it is Christ's suffering and death that opens the path to glorification. This is a theme that is continued and developed in the next section.
In His mission to free mankind from the judgment man rightly deserved for sin, Jesus willingly tasted death from God's cup of wrath. Jesus use similar imagery concerning His impending death in Matthew 26:39-42; Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:42-46; and John 18:11. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that the Father might "let this cup pass me by"—that He might not drink of the cup of God's wrath filled with the bitter "taste" of death, and yet He submitted Himself to God's will and prayed: "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!" (Mt 26:42). In his commentary on Hebrews, St. John Chrysostom states that the use of this expression in Hebrews 2:9 is deliberate. He writes: "... it is very precise. It does not say 'that by the grace of God he might die', for the Lord once he tasted death delayed there only for a moment and immediately rose [...]. All men fear death; therefore, to enable us to take death in our stride, he tasted death even though it was not necessary for him to do so" (Homilies on Hebrews, 4). The Church Fathers in their writings have always seen the words "tasting death" in association with Jesus' Passion as affirming that Jesus willingly accepted His Passion to atone for the sins of mankind and that he accepted death without ceasing to be the Lord of life.
Jesus uses the same Greek word in association with death in Matthew 16:28 when He said, "Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" (repeated in Mk 9:1 and Lk 9:27), and in John 8:52-53 the Pharisees challenge Jesus by saying, "Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, 'Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham who died?"
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that using the imagery of "tasting death" the inspired writer is referring to Passion of the Christ in three ways:
The Navarre scholars write: "Jesus did indeed, by the will of the Father, experience or 'taste' death. His death is described as being like a bitter drink which he chose to take in sips, as if savoring it" (Navarre Commentary on Hebrews, page 68). St. Paul wrote that Jesus "drank the cup of God's wrath" for us that we might be freed from the penalty of eternal death and the wrath of God that is the price we deserve to pay for our sins (Col 2:13-14 and Phil 2:6-11). But there is a cup that we drink and food that we taste that has the power to give us the courage to face death unafraid. We can face death unafraid because we drink from the cup of Jesus' precious Blood and taste the Bread from heaven, which is His Body, in the Most Holy Eucharist, uniting us both physically and spiritually to the life of Jesus Christ.
10 For it was
fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many
children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through
Jesus was glorified by the Father because He willingly suffered and offered Himself up as an unblemished sacrifice for the sins of man (1 Pt 1:18-19). His triumph over sin and death seals the redeeming value of his sacrificial death. It is this victory that gives Jesus, in His humanity as the son of man, and in His divinity as the Son of God, true dominion over the earth (as St. Paul declares quoting from Psalm 8:6 in Ephesians 1:19-23). What this means to us is what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi in Philippians 3:20-21, But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. Jesus' Resurrection and Ascension to glory anticipates the future glory of God's sons and daughters of the New Covenant (see CCC#1002-3).
In Hebrews 2:10, it is not that Jesus needed to be made more perfect than He already was, but by suffering and dying on the Cross to fulfil the will of God, Jesus became the one perfect Savior, consecrated through His obedient suffering, and by being perfect as our heavenly High Priest, He is able to consecrate His people, making access to God possible by each of these two consecrations. He is then, by His suffering, responsible for the entry of human beings into the perfection of the glory of God. The literal verb "made perfect" is used frequently in the Letter to the Hebrews to denote the various effects of Christ's work on the relationship between man and God (i.e., also see Heb 5:9; 7:28; 10:1; 11:40; 12:23).
11 He who
consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.
Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them "brothers"...
Jesus is able to consecrate human beings because He has become one of us; we are His blood brothers and sisters, united as one family in the blood Jesus shed on the Cross and His blood we consume in the Eucharist.
The Gospel of Mark 10:2-16 ~ Jesus Teaches on Marriage
2 The Pharisees approached and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him. 3 He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They replied, "Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." 5 But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become on flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." 10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." 13 And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." 16 Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
Great crowds of people continued to follow Jesus, receiving His gift of healing while the Pharisees continued to challenge Him. The Pharisees approached Jesus again to "test" him, as Satan tested Jesus. As in the other times they have tested Jesus, the purpose is not to learn His true identity but to show their superiority and to discredit Him with the people (Mt 12:13; 16:1; Mk 8:11; Lk 11:52-53). It is ironic that it is their attempt to "test" Jesus and to reveal to the people that His true identity is not the Messiah that they reveal their true identity as "children of Satan" who stand in opposition to God's plan for man's salvation.
2 The Pharisees approached and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him. They are hoping they can maneuver Jesus to say something they can use against him. If He rejects divorce for any reason they can perhaps put Him in the same position as John the Baptist who was condemned to death for his criticism of Herod Antipas and Herodias' divorces from their spouses and their unlawful marriage (Mk 6:17-19). Or, if he approves of divorce without restrictions, they can accuse him of being like the heathen Gentiles.
3 He said to
them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They replied, "Moses permitted him to write a bill of
divorce and dismiss her." 5 But
Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this
The Pharisees are referring to Moses' pronouncement concerning divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, in which he permitted a man to divorce his wife for reasons of "unfitness." The problem was that Moses' permission for divorce in cases of "unfitness" could be widely interpreted. Jesus knows that the Pharisees interpret Moses' decree in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 as a commandment, but Jesus corrects them and tells them that it was not so much a command but a concession because of the hard hearts of the Israelite men. Jesus does not disclose in what ways the men of Israel demonstrated "hard hearts" when Moses permitted divorce, but it may be that Moses permitted divorce to prevent a much greater sin. It is possible that men who did not want to support an elderly wife were taking matters into their own hands, and elderly wives were dying from "accidents."
6 "But from
the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his
father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become on flesh.' So they are no
longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore
what God has joined together, no human being must separate."
In verses 6-9 Jesus quotes two passages from the Book of Genesis. The first is from Genesis 1:27, God made them male and female, and the second is from Genesis 2:24, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become on flesh.
Then Jesus defines marriage as God intended marriage to be defined when He instituted marriage by officiating at the marriage of Adam and Eve, saying: "So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate."
Jesus has turned their test against them by quoting from Sacred Scripture, asking them if they did not know the passages from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. He asks them if they are willing to dispute what God has commanded in those passages and interprets the passages to mean there can be no division/divorce when God has joined a couple in marriage. In His declaration "what God has joined together, no human being [man] must separate," Jesus unequivocally affirms the sacred nature and the indissolubility of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. He also affirms God as both the Creator of man and woman and the author of the institution of marriage (see CCC 1614-16).
Notice that in Jesus' definition of marriage that other forms of unions are rejected as not of God: polygamy, homosexual unions, incest and free unions (co-habituating) cannot be defined as marriage and are offenses against the dignity of marriage (see CCC 1645, 2357-59, 2387-88, 2390-91, 2400).
10 In the
house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, "Whoever divorces his
wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and
marries another, she commits adultery."
The Old Covenant law already addressed cases of adultery for men and women, but the penalty for adultery wasn't divorce; it was death (Lev 20:10). Jesus' teaching on divorce was very clear: to divorce a wife, unless the marriage was unlawful under the Holiness Code of Leviticus 18:6-18, and to remarry another was the sin of adultery and a violation of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:14; Dt 5:18).
In the Christian Church's first council in Acts chapter 15, the Apostles instructed faith communities in their Apostolic decree to avoid unlawful marriage (Acts 15:19-20) referring to marriages that were deemed incestuous. However, in the Church's power to "bind and loose," Jesus has given the Church the authority to make decisions in such matters as the annulment of marriages that never should have taken place because of fraud, deceit, or indecency (see CCC 1603, 1610).
Mark 10:13-16 ~ Jesus and the Children
13 And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." 16 Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
It is fitting that Jesus' pronouncement on children should follow immediately after His teaching on marriage. This is the second time Jesus has used a little child as an example of faith, trust, and vulnerability. In Mark 9:36-37, He used a little child in Peter's household as a symbol of faith and trust and in instructing the disciples on their role of service to the lowly. People were bringing their children to Jesus for Him to lay His hands upon them to give them His blessing. In trying to protect Jesus, perhaps so He can have the time to heal the seriously afflicted, the disciples are turning away parents who have brought their healthy children to Jesus. Instead of protecting Jesus, they have deeply offended Him. This is the only time in the Gospels that it is said that Jesus was "indignant," in the Greek, aganakteo; it is a term indicating "outraged at an offense," "moved with indignation" (IBGE, vol. IV, page 125; Thayer's Greek Lexicon, page 3). The tender affection Jesus' shows the children illustrates what an extraordinarily loving man Jesus was during His earthly ministry.
Jesus makes a rather surprising statement to His disciples concerning children in verse 14 when He says children must not be prevented from coming to Him because the Kingdom of God belongs to those like them. He follows that statement by a definitive "Amen" in verse 15, saying that a child is the model disciple and whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it. Jesus will call His disciples "children" in Mark 10:24. St. Paul writes that everyone who comes to Christ in faith to receive the Sacrament of Baptism becomes a "child" in the family of God. As children, the baptized come into the Kingdom without status or earthly ambitions. In their total dependence upon God, they exemplify the only disposition that makes entrance into the kingdom possible; the desire to simply receive salvation as a pure and unmerited gift of God's grace (also see Rom 8:16-17; Gal 3:26-27 and CCC 1243-44).
16 Then he
embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
Jesus not only blessed the children by laying His hands on them but He also embraced them in His loving affection. His actions demonstrate that to enter the Kingdom is to enter into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ who is ready to bless and embrace God's children. Jesus' command that children must be permitted to come to Him together with references of the baptism of whole households in Acts (16:15; 33; 18:8) and the fact that children (including Jesus) entered the Sinai Covenant soon after birth (Lev 12:1-8; Lk 21-24), formed the ancient Church's doctrine of infant baptism (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.22.4; Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, 8.3). Origen (185-254), Augustine (354-430) and other Church Fathers taught that infant baptism was a tradition received directly from the Apostles (Origen, Homilies on Romans, 5.9; Augustine, On Genesis, 10.23.39). And other of the Church Fathers considered it parental abuse to delay infant baptism that was necessary for salvation (i.e., Sts. Irenaeus, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine).
Genesis 2:18-24 (CCC 1605);
2:18 (CCC 371, 1652);
2:19-20 (CCC 371, 2417);
2:22 (CCC 369, 1607);
2:23 (CCC 371);
2:24 (CCC 372, 1627)
Hebrews 2:9 (CCC 624, 629); 2:10 (CCC 609)
Mark 10:11-12 (CCC 1650); 10:11 (CCC 2380); 10:14 (CCC 1244, 1261); 10:16 (CCC 699)
For Catechism references on infant baptism see: CCC 403, 1231, 1233, 1250-52, 1282 and 1290
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015