At first the Gospel reading today seems to focus on the issue of marriage and divorce, issues as controversial then as now. But Jesus goes on to elevate children and childlikeness to center stage. Not only are we to receive children, but children in their trust and ready love portray the ground of Christian being. We too are to trust, to open ourselves, to offer love. We are not made to be ourselves alone. The ultimate question is not who I am but who I am in relationship to God and to others. The lessons chosen for today underline this. Genesis, in describing the relationship between a man and a woman, gives us the foundation for marriage. After a lonely man names every creature and plant, and in so doing gives them reality, he remains solitary, lacking something essential to complete him.
Left alone with his pets and his garden, Adam might have been content. Many humans are content to live in such a state and live happy and contented lives. They may be fruitful and multiply as their faith and trust draws to them friends and acquaintances. On the other hand they may draw into themselves and live morose and miserable lives, repelling contact and living in suspicion and fear. Adam sleeps. Sometimes sleep is the refuge of the troubled or the lonely. He awakes to discover that God has given him a companion, a woman, sharing the frame of mutual humanity.
Jesus is confronted with a question about failure, about whether the union of a man and a woman, a union forged by God, for the benefit of a man and a woman, as they live for each other and for him, may be set aside. Jesus laments an easy legalism that puts a woman at the mercy of a man’s whim. Instead he sets a high standard that applies equally to both. Jesus does not replace one legalism with another, harsher one. He takes his listeners back to the Genesis story, and anchors marriage in creation. Marriage is not just a social convention.
Any action we commit that in practice denies what God has made and wills is sinful. Sin is living as if God is not. It is practiced atheism. God created marriage. He made it not only to give comfort and abiding friendship to a man and a woman, but also to secure a safe and nurturing environment for children. That intention may fail. We may fail. Marriages fail, and people remarry. Jesus names the sin involved: adultery. If he had not named the sin, it would have no reality. Of course we flinch and recoil when we hear the sin defined. We may plead a special case to justify what we have done. In the end, we kneel and confess. That God forgives our failures does not lessen the sin; it magnifies grace.
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Look It Up
Read Gen. 2:18-24 and Mark 10:2-16.
Think About It
Why is it so hard for us to admit our sins and failings and to believe with the trust of a little child?