Genesis 2.7ab, 8b, 18-24
It is not good for man to be alone. This story of creation we just heard is one of two creation stories, each one having it own message. The basic message of this version of creation is that it is not good for man to be alone. We live our lives in relationships. To quote the Dalai Lama: “we come into this world as a result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others, whether we like it or not there is hardly a moment in our lives when we do not benefit from others activities. It is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationship with others.”
It is not good for man to be alone. In our first reading we hear of how Adam was presented with each animal and bird and gave them their names. Those who named others were announcing themselves as having domination over the one named. The animals man named were not suitable companions for the man so God put him to sleep, took one of his ribs, and made woman – and man finally had a companion, flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone. I read somewhere as to why God chose the rib: “not from his feet to be beneath him, not from his head to be above him, but from his side to be his equal, close to his arm to be protected and close to his heart to be loved.
Henceforth man would leave mother and father and cling to his wife and the two become one flesh. What God has joined together let no one separate.
I find this one of the most difficult Sundays on which to preach. We all know that divorce is a reality in so many people’s lives. We have family members and close friends who are divorced. As I said, we live our lives in relationships but relationships – particularly the relationship of marriage – can be fraught with difficulties and threatened by conflicts, conflicts that are inevitable when two free wills, two strong wills, collide. With devastating frequency these collisions end in divorce. Divorce can be compared to a death and with death comes mourning, mourning for what was and what might have been. Divorce has a devastating impact on children who often see themselves as the cause of the divorce. There are times when divorce can be a liberating experience ending a relationship that was oppressive, manipulative, and even destructive, a relationship that for whatever reason became totally unhealthy.
Listening to the scriptures of today’s Mass should cause us to pray for those who have suffered the painful reality of divorce. We should not judge those who divorce. As the song sings, “no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.” We pray for a healing of memories for those wounded by divorce. In time may they find new life and new love. We pray for those couples facing conflicts in their marriage that they have the humility to seek help and the courage to work through their difficulties
In insisting on the original plan for marriage in Genesis, Jesus was challenging the loose morality of His own time. The Church’s insistence on the permanence of marriage challenges the loose attitudes toward marriage of our own times.
A bishop’s ring is a symbol of his being married to his diocese; it’s a sign of his being committed to the care of the people of his diocese. The events of this past week with the bishop of Antigonish being arrested for possessing child pornography have brought pain and shame to the priests and people of the diocese and well as to people across Canada.
Knowing he could be facing arrest he resigned and in a way his resignation was a form of divorce – he’s broken his commitment to the priests and people of the diocese.
Just as we pray for good men and women and children who have suffered the pain and shame of divorce we pray too for the good people of the diocese of Antigonish that they find the courage to remain faithful to the Church. As we continue to celebrate this Mass may our thoughts and prayers be with these good people.