Jesus Models the Sacrificial Love of Marriage

User’s Guide to Sunday, Oct. 3

Christ loves.
Christ loves. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, Oct. 3, is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Mass Readings: Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16 or 10:2-12.

Both the long form and the short form of the Gospel (Mark 10:2-16) for Oct. 3, the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Year B, proclaim the beautiful-yet-hard-to-live-out truth about sacramental marriage. Jesus tells the Pharisees who question him about divorce, “What God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mark 10:9), and he cites the text of the second creation story, which is contained in the first reading (Genesis 2:18-24). 

“Because of the hardness of your hearts,” Jesus tells the Pharisees, Moses permitted divorce (Mark 10:5). Yet, “from the beginning of creation,” we were made male and female, and a man was meant to “leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” so that “the two shall become one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8). This truth about marriage is impossible for us to live out without the help of grace. A lifelong, loving and faithful commitment to another sinful human requires great strength and virtue and a complete pouring out of oneself as a gift to the other. 

Genesis 2:18-24 gives a beautiful vision of how a husband and wife are meant to relate to each other. The man looks at all the creatures that are lower than he is and finds no suitable partner among them. Thus, God creates a companion for him that is equal to him. She is not formed out of the ground like the wild animals and birds of the air, but comes from his very flesh. They are made from the same physical matter and they are equal, both having a rational, immortal soul. She is “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” (Genesis 2:23). They are meant to live in unity as one. 

Even in the Garden, the unitive love of marriage required that it be a sacrificial love. Besides their equality, the creation story shows how the man literally gave up of his flesh — a sacrificial act — on behalf of his bride.

The second reading from Hebrews (2:9-11) shows the same donative love on the part of the Son, the second Person of the Trinity. He became “lower than the angels” and suffered for us so that we might be united to him. He as “the leader to” our salvation was made “perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:9-10). He gave of himself for his bride, the Church. The blood and water that poured from Christ’s side when he brought forth the Church at his crucifixion (John 19:34) directly parallels man’s rib drawn from his side to bring forth his bride. Jesus models for us how we are meant to live out marriage.

A husband and wife can be made perfect through the suffering required of them in the self-giving love of sacramental marriage. This is the deep meaning in the sacrament of matrimony, one that is so hard that before we had the graces of marriage as a sacrament, the Mosaic Law allowed for divorce. Even with the possibility of a sacramental marriage, many men and women are unable to form a true sacramental covenant. The Lord in his great mercy has guided the Church to make available the annulment process to help couples heal when they have been unable to form the sacramental union. And in other cases, even when there is a true sacramental marriage, husbands and wives sometimes make choices that make it impossible for them to live safely and healthily together (Our Lord provides through his Church a legal or pastoral apparatus of “healing” to address this issue). God offers them his healing. 

The Psalm (128: 1-2, 3, 4-5, 6) reminds us to pray for all married couples, so that they grow in fearing the Lord and walking in his ways. Let us pray for them, to “see their children’s children,” and be blessed all the days of their lives.

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