Genesis 2: 18-24; Mark 10: 2-16
Here’s the secret. It is about divorce and it isn’t, or at least not the way we’ve come to expect. Regardless, though, it’s a tough message today, especially in a time where if statistics are true, nearly 50% of all marriages end in divorce. It’s a sad reality that we live with and through. But if you look closely, the Pharisees and Jesus seem to be talking past one another and speaking of different issues, at least on the surface. Maybe Jesus is also aware that divorce, like some many other things are merely symptoms of deeper problems that we miss or fail to see. Yet, Jesus gives clues by his very response to the Pharisees to their question that they pose in order to trip him up. In the end, Jesus, yet again, exposes them for who they are and the part of themselves that they consistently fail to see.
You see, there are also hints in the readings themselves. If it was about the Mosaic law in which they question Jesus, then we would have had that as our first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, but we don’t. Mark takes us back to the Book of Genesis and so does the Church in the formation of the cycle of readings. So it’s about divorce, and yet it’s not. When Jesus responds he tells the Pharisees that the law is there because of the hardness of their hearts. He doesn’t cast out the law or demonize it in anyway, but rather exposes it for what it lacks, a heart, just like the Pharisees. He proceeds to then return us to the basics, to the Book of Genesis, male and female God created them, in God’s image and likeness. A hardened heart and a creation account sets us up for totally missing the point on where the real divorce and separation lies.
You see, male and female God created me. Male and female God created each of you. We’ve already been created whole and yet over our lives become fragmented and separated. There has certainly been enough done on human development that tells us that men have feminine souls and women have masculine souls. Yet, no matter how much we are told that, our binary way of thinking and acting in this worlds moves us towards separation but it also moves us towards the lie that first leads man to fall in the creation accounts. The lie is that someone or something out there is going to complete me, is going to make me whole, and so I go searching everywhere else but the interior journey. It’s what continues to cause war, division, and certainly separation and divorce in all aspects of our lives. We have certainly seen that play out in the political scene the past few weeks, that when we become separated and divorced from ourselves, it becomes solely about power and nothing else. It’s why we continue to have immature leaders in the Church and immature leaders in civil government because we are terrible with dealing with how we ourselves have become separated. It’s all indicative to just how separated and divorced we are, most typically between head and heart.
But that’s the issue with Jesus and the Pharisees and even the disciples in today’s gospel. It’s why the second part of the gospel is so important when the disciples try to keep the children from coming to him. It’s always the most vulnerable that are most impacted. Again, we have seen that play out in our politics. We try to destroy the most vulnerable in order to satisfy our own sense of power. It has shown us just how little interior work is done by some of our leaders where they totally disregard the other. Just like the Pharisees, it points to their own separateness and divorce. From the very beginning, God made us whole. The rest of our lives is spent trying to bring the pieces back together and it’s hard work. Yet, if we don’t learn to reconcile our own masculine and feminine, male and female God created them, we will continue to fall prey to war, violence, division, and this sense of being separate. When we fail to reconcile all of it within ourselves, we can never move to a place of equality, despite the way in which we were created wholly by God. Jesus moves to level the playing field and the men that felt they dominated and held the power wanted nothing of it. They couldn’t see, just as we can’t, our own blindness.
The more we separate from ourselves, from each other, from God’s creation, we can pretty much guarantee that we have separated ourselves from God. When we do that, we don’t even open ourselves to experiencing God in a fuller way. God becomes simply about power and justice yet missing mercy and forgiveness. God becomes about anger and vengeance yet missing loving and compassion. When we can’t bring them together within ourselves, that we can be both just and merciful and all the rest, then we fail to see that about God as well. It’s because of the hardness of your hearts and when the heart is hardened, the vulnerable become the target. Ironically, and paradoxically, that’s precisely where we will find God on our journey. It’s about divorce and yet it’s not, but really about learning to reconcile our own complexity rather than blaming.
Divorce is a tough subject but it is not limited to those who have literally experienced divorce in their lives. It’s a reality that plagues all of us from the first time we began separating and becoming fragmented in our lives. The first time when we learned as children that we had no value for one reason or another, thinking that life was about power and strength but never coupled with mercy and love. It’s the divorce that plagues all of our hearts and has spilled over on the world stage of politics and Church life. We have seen it with our eyes. Yet, people praise it and gather with their tribes. All it does is show how bankrupt it all is and how little we do to teach people what really matters. It’s easy to get hung up on divorce and all the rest, but when we’re honest with ourselves, it impacts all of our lives. Like the gospel reminds us, it is only Christ that pulls it back together, the complexity of our lives. We’ve seen enough divorce in so many different capacities. It’s time to reconcile beginning first with myself and yourself. It’s because of the hardness of our hearts. It’s time to create the space in our own hearts and lives to begin to reconcile these realities of our lives that have become so splintered and so much about power, leading to deeper divorce and separation. It’s time for reconciliation.