27th Sunday, October 7th, 2012.
(Sinead and Mark are two Young Adults).
Dear Sinead and Mark,
Did you ever hear anyone asking ‘How’s it going, oul’ stock?’ It’s a term of affection, and this is what my Googling of it told me: ‘Oul Stock’ - Good friend. Generally used by the less than sober to assure the party being addressed that they are held in high regard and counted on as a close friend by the speaker. As in: ‘How’s it going, oul’ stock?”-
Well, I was reading one of the readings given to us for this 27th Sunday,- the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (or Jewish followers of Jesus) Chapter 2, verses 9-11: ‘the one who makes us holy (that’s Jesus!), and the ones who are made holy (that’s us!) , are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them his sisters and brothers.’ (See Hebrew’s Chapter 2, verse 11). Jesus of Nazareth, who never left that small portion of the Middle East, is the same stock as ourselves: he’s a human being, flesh and blood, knowing pain, temptation, struggle, tiredness, hunger, tears… just as much as we do. And so he could well say to you, Mark or to you, Sinead, or to any of your friends ‘How’s it going, oul stock?’,- ‘How’s it going, friends?’ Or if he lived in Belfast, he might say ‘What ‘bout ye?’
And the Gospel today (Mark 10: vs.2-16) speaks to us of marriage, separation, the beauty of sex, and the extraordinary dignity of every child ! It’s a challenging reading, and I can’t deal with it all, in this letter to you. Let’s cut to the chase, and look at the beauty of our sexuality. Here, Jesus brings his hearers back to something that is a foundation document for Jews, Christian, Muslims,- the very first Book and the very first chapters of the what we call the Book of Genesis (‘Genesis’ means ‘the Beginning’). Genesis teaches us this deep, deep truth,- ‘in His own image God created him, male and female
he created them’. Sinead, you are made female in the image of God, and you, Mark are made male in the image of God! (God is Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Lover to us all!)
And then, in chapter 2, another way of teaching the dignity of each woman, each man; ‘bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh’ is what they were, and are, to each other: and then it adds,- ‘This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one body’. We are female in the image of God, we are male in the image of God, and husband and wife ‘cling to each other’ and the two become one body. And that’s the start of their wonderful journey of discovery of each other as two distinct, unique persons. And I love the way this is expressed in the formula one sometimes hears at weddings,- an older formula that is sometimes sadly neglected- ‘With my body I thee wed!’ . That is why, in the Catholic understanding of a wedding, even when the couple have exchanged their wedding vows in words before the Christian community, their wedding is only completed, their marriage is only ‘consummated’, when the couple have intercourse later. ‘With my body I thee wed!’ The couple exchange their vows AND their bodies,- and in this way ‘the two become one body’. It is they, and not the priest or minister, who give each other the Sacrament of Matrimony. They keep in mind for themselves the first part as well, of that teaching from Genesis,- ‘This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife…’. Becoming one body with each other before they give themselves totally to one another (as’husband’ and ‘wife’), is missing the point, missing the meaning, of their physical sexual union. (Is it ‘putting the cart before the horse’, as the old saying goes?) Another way of putting this: did you ever ask yourselves why do people not exchange Christmas presents weeks before Christmas, instead of waiting for Christmas Morning? Is there something here about waiting until the time is right and the gift means what it says? Sinead, Mark, this might not be ‘modern’, but maybe there’s deep and ancient wisdom in it. What do you think?
One last thought for you, on this: in Marriage Encounter,- a movement that helps married couples to grow more deeply into their love and union,- there is a phrase,-‘When a husband and wife make love, they should hear God cheering!’ Does that surprise you? The same Creator taught us ‘Increase and multiply!’,- in other words, go and make babies galore! And our Creator is thrilled with delight when we do!
And when a recent Pope, Paul VI (’the Sixth’) taught us: ‘Sexuality is at the heart of being Human’, what a joy it was to hear it. And if it’s at the heart of being human, you can bet it’s at the heart of God,- because God created us in love, from love, and for love. Why? Because God is love! We are created to be Lovers, ‘in the image and likeness of God’. The Trinity, -Father, Son, Holy Spirit-, is one great cauldron of love: it is love.
So, that’s your calling, Sinead, Mark,- to be as genuinely loving as human beings as you can be, – to grow all your life long in the skills of loving, cherishing, touching, reaching out, serving,- in all the many ways and deeds that lie beneath that four-letter word,- L O V E
Finally, if you can, have a look at the last section of today’s Gospel-Mark 10:14-16- about Jesus and the little children, and the indignation of Jesus when the disciples tried to keep the children away from a busy Jesus. At end of this piece, Mark tells us, ‘Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing’. There’s tenderness, respect and real loving.
Have a great week, Mark, Sinead! Will write to you next weekend, again,- please God!
God bliss you and bless you!
(Fr. Seamus Devitt C.Ss.R. – email firstname.lastname@example.org )