27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON OCTOBER 3, 2021 (R. 1: Genesis 2: 18- 24; Psalm 128: 1- 6; R. 2: Hebrews 2: 9- 11; Gospel: Mark 10: 2- 16)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
Have you ever lost your key? Let’s say the key to your room or the key to your car? I don’t know how you go about it, but for me, when I lose my key, this is how I go about it: first, I go into a panic mode, and I begin to run up and down in search of the key. When I realize that it is not working for me, I immediately call an emergency board of directors meeting with myself and I begin to have this conversation with myself:
Wait, Emmanuel, take it easy! How did it all begin? Before you left the room, the key was on your desk, you grabbed it from the desk and then you dropped it in your pocket, you opened your door, and you went into the kitchen. In the kitchen, right before you opened the refrigerator, your phone rang in your pocket and in order to get to your phone, you first brought out your key and you dropped it on top of the refrigerator. Yes! That is where it is, on top of the refrigerator.
Having arrived at this conclusion, I run immediately to the kitchen to find my key patiently sitting on the refrigerator and waiting for me.
My dearly beloved in Christ, in today’s gospel passage, the Pharisees come to Jesus to ask him a question about marriage and divorce. Mark prepares us by telling us that their motive is to test Jesus, and Jesus being aware of their motive does not give them a yes or no answer, instead he walks them back to the root to find the answer themselves. Their question is whether or not it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus throws the question back to them, “You follow the law of Moses, you listen to Moses, you read from Moses, what did Moses tell you?” “They reply, “Moses only commanded us to give a certificate of divorce to the woman.” Jesus goes on to say, “But that is not the root, can we backtrack to where we actually grabbed the key? Can we backtrack to the source of this union?” This next step took them to the point of creation. In the beginning, God created them male and female that they may unite in marriage, and what God has joined together, no one must put asunder. He explains further that Moses gave the command about giving a certificate of divorce only as a temporary remedy, a temporary concession, a scaffolding, because of their hardness of heart. Moses came at a point when the society was already in decay and to remedy it temporarily, Moses gave this command in preparation for the perfection of the law. It was a time when men would divorce their wives for any reason; a man could go out of the house, find another woman and then come back and tell his wife, “I found someone more beautiful than you; I’m done with you.” At that time, a man could divorce his wife because there was too much salt in the food. The man would marry another wife, while the woman he divorced would be left outside of marriage without any legal recognition as divorced. As such, she could not marry another man. It was a culture and time that it was unthinkable for a woman to live on her own.
Moses gave this concession to protect women because men would divorce them and move on with their lives while the women would continue to suffer. So, in handling this question, rather than give them a simple “Yes,” or “No” answer, Jesus directs them to see where they first had contact with the “key” and where they had the last contact with the key.
Some parents brought their children to Jesus that Jesus might touch and bless them, but the apostles prevented them. Jesus was not happy with the action of the apostles. He told them not to stop the children from coming to him for to them belongs the Kingdom of God, for whoever does not welcome the Kingdom of God like little children will not enter heaven. What is the message here? Jesus used the example of the children as a way of reminding his listeners to go back to the root. If you want to get it right, don’t remain on the surface, return to your childlike innocence, return to how God planned it originally; a child ordinarily would not rely on its own power, children are very dependent; just like children, Jesus was inviting his listeners to be dependent on God and not to go ahead of God, or claim to know the law better than God.
My dearly beloved in Christ, this message does not stop with marriage; this message affects our entire life. The break of each day meets us with a question; each step we take in life brings up a question about what decision to make regarding our health, regarding our relationships, regarding how we make money, regarding how we spend money, etc. Many times, we wonder what the right way is. Based on the response of Jesus to the Pharisees and to the apostles today, it is clear that the way out is to ask: what was God’s original intention for the decision I am trying to make? As Christians, whenever we have a decision to make, the way out is to go back to the Bible to find out God’s original plan. Jesus referred to Moses to say Moses only prepared the people for the perfection and it is in Jesus that we find the perfection. Jesus has brought grace, which was absent in Moses. Difficult as it may be, when we rely on the grace of God and we go back to the source, we get the right answer.
As we continue on our journey through life, as we continue to struggle with different questions that life throws at us, may the word of God continue to be a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path, until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord Amen.