27th Sunday of Year B
by Larry Broding
This reading focuses upon the place of marriage in the plan of creation.
The author of Hebrews presented us with the “Big Picture.” Jesus came from God at the beginning of time and in the Incarnation. And would return to God through his Resurrection-Ascension and at the end of time when he would destroy all evil and return creation back to his Father. Jesus was the sign that God was at work in the world in a definitive way. As another human being, Jesus gave us a tactile way to experience God. Yet, he transcends our world to become the Savior of all.
How do you see Jesus, as a brother or as the Holy One to be adored? Do you drift between the two images? When do you see him as either? How do you see him as both?
How has the family suffered in society? What challenges do modern families face these days?
These days, families come in different sizes and shapes. Traditional families, single-parent families, blended families, multi-generational parenting. Adoption and artificial means of conception have opened the doors to parenting for classes of people who could not (or would not) create a family in previous generations.
What experience do you have of divorce? How has divorce affected the people involved? Has it given you an opportunity to help others grow closer to God? How?
Consider those two questions in your own personal world. How can you help a family, its parents and offspring grow this week?
ECHOING GOD’S WORD
It is no coincidence that Jesus speaks about how children relate to God immediately after his teaching on divorce. In his day as in ours, children were the first victims of marital strife and disunity. Here, the whole issue is about our relationship with God and about God’s faithfulness to the Covenant. Marriage is one of those images on earth that communicates divine love to God’s people The law required that a man give the wife a written notice of divorce so that she could marry again and obtain financial support for herself and her children. It was a compassionate law, meant to bring some remedy to a most tragic situation.
1. What evidence do you see in your parish (your family, your faith-sharing group, etc.) that the members of the group have accepted the Good News of salvation? Do you find evidence of unity and the bond of love among and between people where one would not expect it? Are there signs that the finger of God is at work in the lives of people around you?
2. Share with your group how you feel when you have accepted the love of God in your life. Was there a time when you did not love God? Was there a time when you loved God less than you do now? What brought you to a deeper love of God? What brought you to an awareness of God’s ongoing love for you? How did that come about?
3. If you are or have been married, if you have had and brought up children, how have those experiences helped you experience the love of God in your life? Do you have a sense that God loves you through the love that family members bring to you? Do you see the face of God in the face of your spouse, in the faces of your children? Do they experience the love of God for them in the love they received from you?
SMALL GROUP FAITH SHARING
For the past several weeks, Mark has been giving us lessons on the true nature of Christian discipleship. This week, we receive a fifth lesson which has to do with the permanent and exclusive nature of marriage, and of “hardness of heart” which is a big obstacle to all seeking union in marriage. The first reading speaks of God’s original plan for marriage. The Gospel touches on “hardness of heart” which can lead to the break-up of a marriage. Jesus also speaks about the dignity of children in God’s kingdom. The second reading speaks about Jesus’ solidarity with the human race and how his saving death made us children of God. For individuals who have gone through a divorce and/or remarriage, today’s Gospel may be a painful one to listen to. It is good for us to remember that in his Gospel, Jesus presents us with many difficult challenges which none of us live perfectly. Hence, all of us are always in need of God’s mercy for the failures in our lives.
1. Turn to the person next to you and share what verse in the Gospel caught your attention. Why? Share the next questions in small groups of 2 or 3 or with the whole group.
2. In the home and Church environment you grew up in, did you get the message that women were equal to men? Or did you receive subtle or not-so-subtle hints that men were more important or superior to women?
3. When you personally experience “hardness of heart,” what are you feeling? What helps you most to move past the “hardness of heart” feeling?
4. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about marriage, divorce and remarriage. What can our Church or parish do to: • strengthen marriages? • bring comfort and consolation to the divorced? • show mercy to divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the Church?
5. If both husband and wife are committed disciples of Jesus, divorce will never occur. Agree? Disagree? Why?
6. What is the one thing Jesus is saying to us in this Sunday’s Gospel about how a disciple should speak or act? And what do you need to do or change to be a better disciple?
Having gone from Galilee “to Judea, beyond the Jordan” (verse 1), Jesus resumes his teaching to his Apostles about discipleship, beginning in verse 13. • He is interrupted, however, by some Pharisees who have a question about the legality of divorce. This may have been an attempt to trap him: John the Baptist, who had been baptizing in that same area (Mark 1:9) had just recently paid with his life for his taking a public stand on the issue of King Herod’s divorce (Mark 6:17-29). • The Pharisees point to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, the Law of Moses, to support their case (verse 3). This piece of legislation was not an actual command to divorce as the Pharisees seemed to interpret it, but as a concession by Moses to the hardheartedness of the culture, where divorce had become taken for granted and women were as a result victimized. • In response to their citing the Scriptures to support the practice of divorce, Jesus reaches even further back into the Scripture (Genesis 1:27, 2:24) to reveal to them God’s original plan for marriage and, amazingly, on his own authority, sets the higher Christian standard for marriage (verses 9, 11-12).
1. In the Second Reading, when Jesus tasted death for the entire human family, of what was his act representative (Philippians 2:8; Ephesians 5:2; CCC 624)? What is the possible background for the expression “taste death” (see Genesis 3:17-19)?
2. According to the passages of Genesis to which Jesus alludes in verses 6-8, what are the three characteristics of the marital bond in God’s original plan for marriage? Why can it not be broken by any civil or religious authority? (see also Matthew 5:32, 19:9, and 1 Corinthians 7:10-16)
3. How might the issue of divorce illustrate hardness of heart? How does acceptance of God’s plan remove hardness of heart? What is the connection between Jesus’ blessing of the children and the prohibition of divorce in verses 11-12?
4. Does our society teach us to regard some people as having more worth than others (verses 13-16)? Whom do we honor? Whom do we imitate? Why do you think Jesus specifically sought out those who, like children, were powerless? What are some ways in which, you, too, can seek out those most in need?
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