19 Pentecost, Year B: Partners in One World

SUNDAY’S READINGS | October 3, 2021

Job 1:1; 2:1-10 or Gen. 2:18-24
Ps. 26 or Ps. 8
Heb. 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

We are social creatures, and we need friends.

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner’” (Gen. 2:18). The Lord acts, but not by creating another co-equal human. Instead, the Lord creates out of the ground all animal life as a partner to humanity, though subject to human stewardship. Indeed, the Lord forms animal life from the mud of the earth, the same substance from which Adam was created. The Lord gives animal life to humanity in a particular way, allowing Adam to name the creatures and thereby raise them to the level of intelligibility. Humanity, then, interacts with animals outwardly and thinks of them inwardly, gives them mental space, and comes to know them. We share the ground from which we were made and the divine hand that made us with all animal life. “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9).

Wild animals may terrify us, but this fear instills an appropriate reverence. Domesticated animals and our beloved pets call forth our deep respect as well. “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field” (Gen. 2:19-20). The first human being found a flock of friends. The Psalmist celebrates this moment. “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:6-10). We do well to recall that God and humanity and animal life belong together. And, along with vegetative life and all celestial beings, everything seen and unseen, one chorus of endless praise ascends to God the Creator of all being. “O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord.”

In the animal world, we have partners, but not a co-equal partner. We see “another” but not “another self,” not a friend in the most profound sense. God goes to work again. “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (Gen. 2:22). Because Adam was made from the dust of the earth, the woman, by derivation, is also from the earth. On yet another level, they are from each other. The woman is from the man and the man from the woman because differentiation requires both. Adam cannot sing to “the bone of my bones” until there is a woman. This is an ancient story about the first marriage, the first parents, but it is also a story about the emergence of human society. We need each other.

We cannot survive alone. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9).

We need animals, human partners, vegetative life, angelic companions, celestial beings, the music of the spheres.

Look It Up: Hebrews 1:2

Think About It: “He has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.” Encountering each other and all created beings, we meet Jesus.


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