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27th SUNDAY (B) October 7,2018

Genesis 2: 18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2: 9-11; Mark 10: 2-16

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

WELCOME to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the lay ecclesial leaders who attended the Diocesan Congress in Salt Lake City.


 The 27th




When we hear the creation account in Genesis today we have to dismiss any former notions we may still have. At a previous time our unfamiliarity with the Scriptures gave us notions that led to stereotypes. A casual reading of the creation of humans shows how we can draw simplistic conclusions. For example, since the man was created first, he appears to be the primary focus of God’s plan for creating humans. The woman seems to be an afterthought and created just for the purpose of giving the man companionship and comfort.

Biblical scholarship and a thoughtful reading show the woman’s equality and her partnership with the man. She is created from the same "stuff." Thus, God intended man and woman to live in cooperation and meant to share life with one another. The text asserts that in marriage the two become "one flesh." Even their derivative names, "man," "woman," affirm their intimate relationship. The Genesis reading forms the backdrop for our gospel passage today.

The question posed by the Pharisees was not if divorce was allowed, but when it was permissible. The question of divorce was long debated among the religious teachers. The texts about it were scrupulously studied. So, for example, Deuteronomy 24:1 – "Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, so he writes her a certificate of divorce...." It does not take a biblical scholar to realize how vulnerable the wife would be to the pleasure of her husband. What was the "something objectionable" that would be grounds for the divorce? That was the focus of the debates.

The strict, or narrow interpretation, would allow divorce only for infidelity. But a looser reading would allow divorce for anything that the man found "objectionable." Grounds for divorce – what could they be? A burnt meal? Not bearing a son? Old age? It isn’t hard to imagine how society would be affected by such easy divorce procedures. Divorce involves legal issues, and much more, since family and community relationships are affected by divorce. For example, married couples are responsible to care for and protect children who are intimately affected by a divorce. As the Scriptures show, God is also involved in married relationships and in our tradition, to signify that, marriage is a sacrament.

Consider the dire straits a divorced woman would undergo in Jesus’ world. For the most part women did not own property. Marriage would provide them and their children support and protection. On their own they would be hard-pressed to find life’s essentials. Hence, the law was crucial for protection of women and their children from the more powerful forces aligned against them.

Jesus’ stricter interpretation of the law was characteristic of his desire to protect the least in society. In other places in the gospel Jesus calls his disciples to follow him, leaving behind their families. He was creating a new family, not related by blood ties. But about divorce and its consequences, he chose to follow God’s intention, the teaching we heard in today’s Genesis reading: "the two of them become one flesh." "Therefore," Jesus teaches, "what God has joined together, no human being must separate."

What I think is "preach-able" from today’s gospel, is not the absolute prohibition of divorce. In the light of domestic violence, for example, there is need for divorce to protect the vulnerable partner in marriage. Here’s where I would come down on Jesus’ teaching – the reason for his interpretation. Marriage was supposed to be permanent, but some husbands too easily cast off their wives. As he always did, Jesus seeks to protect those excluded who didn’t have societal recourse.

Jesus responds to the Pharisees in good rabbinical fashion, by asking another question, "What did Moses command you?" Moses permitted divorce with a certificate from the husband; which was a way to protect the wife from abandonment in their male-dominated society. With the certificate a woman was free to marry again and have the legal support she needed.

Jesus refers to Genesis to show God’s original intention: the equality of man and woman. The man found the animals inferior that God presented to him. When God presents the woman to Adam he finally finds one like himself – "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh."

What about the charge of adultery for remarriage? In Jesus’ world if a man were unfaithful he wasn’t committing adultery against his wife, but only against other married men. If a woman committed adultery she would be stoned. So, Jesus’ teaching now includes men in the charge of adultery if they remarry. (Note: Jewish women could not divorce their husbands, but Mark addressed his Gentile audience where women could divorce and own property.)

Jesus preached with urgency the coming of God’s kingdom, which would enable a whole new way of living. Hence, among his other teachings, he forbade oaths and divorce (Matthew 5:34-37). But as the Christian community grew and spread they found they could not live up to all the ideals and they compromised over some of his teachings. So, for example, they struggled with how to support permanent marriages in light of human weaknesses.

Our country allows women to own property, receive wages and seek divorce. Still, women and children are the most vulnerable in our society. While divorce may be easier, society fails to enforce adequate child support, yielding an increase of those on the poverty roles – comprised primarily of young mothers and children.

Jesus does not reject law. He wants life to have order, structures and to provide and nurture those most in need. Today’s passage also includes his comments about children. In light of our ongoing crisis of clergy abuse of children, and our obligations to protect our vulnerable members, his words are empowering. One way of "embracing," and "blessing" children, as Jesus does, is for church members, clergy and laity, to call for full disclosure, the removing of violators from working in the church and to do whatever we can to facilitate healing among those who have been betrayed and violated. Jesus’ rebuke of the behavior of his disciples and his instructions to them about proper behavior towards the least, challenge and empower all of us disciples not to take a "wait and see" attitude, but to do what we can now to move us out of the muck we now find ourselves.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:


Jesus does not say, "Blessed are those who plot revenge." He calls "blessed" those who forgive and do so "seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22). We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion. If we approach the Lord with sincerity and listen carefully, there may well be times when we hear his reproach: "Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" (Matthew 18: 33). Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness.

— Pope Francis, "Rejoice and Be Glad"


May you see your children’s children.

Psalm 128:6

The last verses of this psalm extend the blessing to all the people for generations to come. The future belongs to these children. What kind of a future will we prepare for our children and our children’s children? What kind of a future will we prepare for the children we do not know, who are not our immediate family?

I am reminded of Daniel Maguire's thoughts in his book, A Moral Creed for All Christians, where he states that children are "the clearest reminders of the pricelessness of human life and they are the fairest product of this fruit-filled Earth. Indeed, if one were pressed to give a single statement to sum up morality, I would return to: what is good for children is good and what is bad for children is ungodly. With that principle alone, our politics, economics, and religions could all be brought under searing moral scrutiny" (Fortress, 2005, 211). Maguire goes on to cite the following statistic: "On December 9, 2004, the United Nations Children’s Fund announced that more than a billion children, more than half of the children in the world, suffer extreme deprivation because of war, HIV/AIDS, or poverty. . .Wars, invasions, and grossly inflated military budgets kill children, the true treasures of the species. Were we not so morally frozen in our collective consciousness, the arguments for a ‘just war’ would melt before the prospect of shedding children’s blood" (211). For reasons such as this, the "Just War Doctrine" is being re-examined by many spiritual leaders including Catholic leadership. What has the Catholic Church established as Just War Doctrine?

In the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church #2309, four strict conditions are listed for legitimate defense by military force: "The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition." Perhaps, incorporating Maguire’s guideline would yield us a fifth condition--what effect will this war have on children? Perhaps, it is time for a Just Peace Doctrine that more closely emulates the nonviolent life of Jesus, who so dearly loved the little children.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC


27th SUNDAY (B) October 7,2018

Genesis 2: 18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2: 9-11; Mark 10: 2-16

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

...a man shall leave father and mother and be joined to his wife,

and the two shall become one flesh.

Therefore what God has joined together,

no human being must separate.


While our Church’s marriage laws are meant to protect the institution of marriage for the common good, still, Jesus has taught mercy and forgiveness and in his ministry he kept persons primary. How then can the Church do the same? By holding fast to its current laws and restrictions? Or, while raising up the ideal, by also ministering to those wounded by their previous experiences in marriage, who now hope to start afresh in new relationships – and still be full participants in the church.?

So we ask ourselves:

  • By their love and commitment to one another which married couples have witnessed to me the blessings of the sacrament of marriage?
  • What can I do or say to give support to those who are struggling in their commitment to one another?


"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Shan E. Carter #0486636 (On death row since 3/19/01)
  • Fernando L. Garcia #0702066 (4/19/01)
  • Jim E. Haselden #0561943 (6/6/01)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:


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