The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
2015 – Cycle B
Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16
“The Lord God said,
‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’”
“We can add: It is not good for the woman to be alone, it is not good for children, the elderly or the young to be alone.” It is not good for the human being to be alone. “It is not good.”
[Pope Francis, 26 September 2015]
As the Synod of Bishops gathers in Rome the issues have been fiercely debated this past year and will not go away.
- How do we pastorally address the status of people divorced and civilly remarried and yet remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus?
- Is a streamlined annulment process the only pathway for Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried?
- What underlies your motives when receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion? …worthiness? …reward for good behavior? …or the yearning for wholeness and healing in Christ? Depending on your answer, what pathway may be found for our civilly remarried sisters and brothers to be invited back to the reception of Holy Communion?
- How do we pastorally address a person whose first marriage is ended yet was deemed sacramental and indissoluble while their second civil marriage is nurturing and maturing emotionally and spiritually?
- Can we, the people of the Church, recognize and emphasize the positive elements in couples who cohabitate, in people who are in irregular family situations, or in the committed relationships of our gay sisters and brothers while walking together with them toward greater fidelity in Christ?
- How do we pastorally address the rising acceptance of same-sex marriage in civil society and yet uphold and strengthen the traditional family structure?
Must not pathways be found for the Church to support people wherever they may be in life and walk with them together toward Jesus? True pastoral responses will need deep reflection on the scripture and tradition and on human experience unified by the wisdom and prudence of the Holy Spirit. As a beginning, consider that at the root of all these moral situations is the human desire to be joined to other human beings so as not to be alone. ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’
- A wife once voiced to me that she hoped she died first so that she would not have to face life alone after the death of her husband. It is not good for the human being to be alone.
- My mother has now been a widow for 11 years. Her recurring commentary is that she is alone; no one remembers, no one calls, no one visits. Does that resonate with any of you? It is not good for the human being to be alone.
- Why has society established adult living facilities like Saint James Manor? It is not good to be alone.
- How many Catholic families do not foster a vocation to the priesthood within their sons and grandsons because they perceive that priesthood is a lonely life? For some, I expect it is. But marriage does not guarantee the absence of loneliness. To what depth must the loneliness be for the couple that is estranged from each other, loveless and living together? …the silence, …the hollowness, …the voiceless inner scream? No life choice, no vocation or human being is immune at some time in their life from the feelings of loneliness. It is not good to be alone.
- How many people, even before a divorce decree has been issued, quickly jump into the dating scene because of the fear of being alone? It is not good for the human being to be alone.
- Why do people gather at “The Lord’s Table” or “Saturday’s Bread”? Do you think it is just because people are physically hungry? It is not good to be alone.
- How often is sexual activity outside of the Sacrament of Marriage, internet pornography, adultery, the “hook up” culture of college campuses and cohabitation a search to fill the void of loneliness or to at least stave off the fear of being alone rather than outright sinfulness? How often are these human choices looking for human relationship – a good – but in all the wrong places? It is not good for the human being to be alone.
- How many single people, straight and gay, are seeking a committed life partner and not finding a partner fear being alone the rest of their lives? Is eHarmony.com or Match.com the answer?
This hunger for relationship experienced in people yearning to be connected to others; to heal broken relationships; to begin vibrant and new relationships; in yearning to be received again at the table of Holy Communion and be joined to Christ and the people of God; for people single, vowed, or widowed to be a part of something great than themselves – this is the same hunger that is at the heart of our God. A God who is a community of being: Father, Son and Spirit. To be God is to be in relationship. To be in relationship drew God beyond God-self in order to have someone to love outside of the divine Trinity.
If it is not good for the human being to be alone. It is not good for God to be alone. Thus God created in his communal image man and woman at whose heart is also the desire for relationship which is experienced in committed friendships; in the bond of husband and wife; in the passing kindness with a stranger; in every act of selflessness on a playground or battlefield; a shopping mall or emergency room; in our homes and neighborhoods and in our families and among those who support us. To be created in the image and likeness of God is to be in relationship. This is the foundational issue that the Synod of Bishops and the entire Church need to contemplate.
I want to leave you with two contrasting and yet complimentary images from our Christian tradition. The Crucified One – Jesus hanging between heaven and earth as totally abandoned and alone. The image of the Virgin-Mother and child as the loving embrace of God for his sons and daughters. Wrestling with the paradox of both images and experiences of our God are necessary for maturing in the spiritual life.
The divine aloneness and embrace reveal the paradox of our paths with and toward each other.