Monday, November 2, 2009

10-04-2009: 27th Ordinary Time (B)

Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 2:18-24/Psalm 128/Hebrews 2:9-11/Mark 10:2-12
The revelation, mythic in nature though it be – that woman was created from “the rib of man” – remains a bone of contention these many ages since it was written. Although the author’s intention is to demonstrate that both male and female share the same nature, the underlying implication is that woman proceeds from man, rather than having been created simultaneously. (Just the opposite seems to be the actual case from biology, however – if I understand embryonic development in utero correctly).

In today’s gospel Jesus, despite gospel claims to the contrary, does indeed abolish the Mosaic Law and forbids divorce, citing the Genesis account of the shared nature between male and female. One might, sardonically perhaps, have reminded Jesus that there were, after all, not many post-divorce options for Adam and Eve, they being the only show-in-town at Eden’s opening curtain.

Only the Catholic Church has maintained the gospel injunction against divorce through the ensuing centuries (even the Orthodox Churches permit divorce, albeit with limitations). Yet, despite the injunction, divorce rates remain virtually the same for American Catholics as the general population. The church has responded by dramatically increasing the granting of annulments over the years; though, for many, the distinction between divorce and annulment is merely, and solely, a semantic one.

While many, religious or not, might agree that the practice of divorce has taken its toll on the American family, few would suggest outlawing the practice. Perhaps we all know too well that people make mistakes and we find it near impossible not to allow them another chance. But this is nothing new. Insinuations of “re-marriage” are hinted at even from the beginning.

As with much of the Bible, the Book of Genesis is filled with anomalies. The creation of Eve from Adam’s rib, for example, takes place in Chapter Two; but the creation of man and woman has already been noted in Chapter One. Ancient writers noticed this seeming contradiction and gave us the extra-biblical account of Lilith – Adam’s first wife. Lilith, unlike Eve, was created from the clay of the earth just as Adam was. The accounts of Lilith in Jewish mystical works illustrated the ensuing difficulties between Adam and Lilith by describing their competing sexual proclivities (best left to the reader’s imagination than endangering this writer’s future). The implication being that Adam, with divine assistance, ditched Lilith for a more submissive Eve. Through the ages the legend of Lilith, told from the male perspective, will embody the continuing struggle for power between men and women.

Marriage as indissoluble, as permanent, is an ideal that possesses immense value and its failure can have tragic consequences for spouses and children. Yet, the ideal of its indissolubility remains just that – an ideal. Jesus’ injunction against divorce may clarify the ideal but it doesn’t make the ideal a reality. There will always be those who fall short. Church and society must accommodate or run the risk of forsaking the real world for a mythical Garden of Eden which, when examined, might not have been as ideal as we would like to imagine.

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