SEEKING TO ARRIVE AT THE IDEAL
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gen 2:18-24; Ps 127:1-5; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16 (or Mk 10:2-12) ]
Today, we are presented with the plan of God for humanity. When God created us, He wanted us to be happy. The paradisiac scene where our first parents lived was meant to be the ideal life that God wanted us to live. Creation is meant for man’s happiness. That is why man was created last because we are created to enjoy creation. Everything was created for man.
Even then, man is not contented just to have things to enjoy. He needs more than things. He needs a relationship. Man wants to love. Hence, “the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.’ So from the soil the Lord God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. But no helpmate suitable for man was found for him.” Indeed, no animals can replace the deep desire for love and relationship in man.
Man not only needs love but he needs to relate with someone whom he can share his love and reciprocate that love on a similar basis. He needs a helpmate like him. “And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. The Lord God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. The man exclaimed: This at last is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh! This is to be called woman, for this was taken from man.” God found the perfect companion for man, someone like him and yet not exactly identical to him. God did not clone man; otherwise he would have ended up loving and worshipping himself. God chose to create someone different and yet alike in many ways. He created a woman to complement the man, and vice versa. God found the perfect match for man in the woman.
This is the ideal of God’s plan for humanity. “From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.” This is what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. In God, there is complete unity in diversity, one being in three persons. When we are able to love each other, although we are different, we truly participate in the Trinitarian love of God. It is the highest form of love because loving someone exactly like us is easier than to love and appreciate someone who is different from us. The greater the diversity, the higher the intensity of love.
Consequently, the Church has always seen marriage as a sacrament of God’s perfect love. St Paul wrote, “This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.” (cf Eph 5:25-32) Marriage is not just the means of participating in the Trinitarian love of God, it is also a symbol of our relationship with God. We are called to intimacy with the Lord in the final analysis. Human love between a husband and wife is but a prelude and a foretaste of God’s fullness of love. Unless we understand and know what human love is, it would be very difficult to grasp the height, depth, width and breadth of God’s love for us. For this reason, mystical writers often describe our relationship with God in terms of nuptial love. What does nuptial love entail if not love, passion, communion, fidelity, commitment, creativity and fruitfulness?
But the love between man and woman, or with God, does not stay within the relationship, it pours out into other relationships. A man and a woman do not exist for each other only, but for others. If they are called to love each other intensely, it so that from the love they receive from each other, they can share their love with the rest of creation, beginning with their own children; the fruits of their love. This explains why procreation and fruitfulness are considered properties of a true marriage and a relationship. If love only exists between two persons, regardless how much they love each other, it is self-love. It is insecure and unstable, inward-looking and impoverished. But when that love between themselves is shared with others, it shows the abundance of love between the two persons. Thus, true love is passed on from the couple to their children and then to the rest of humanity. In this way, the family of God is built. This is the beautiful plan of God for us all – to live in love and in happiness. This is what the psalmist meant when he said, “Your wife like a fruitful vine in the heart of your house; your children like shoots of the olive, around your table.”
Conversely, the failure to observe these expressions of love means a failure in the ideal plan of God for humanity. As the Lord said, “It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you.” Divorce is a reality as old as humanity itself. Why? Because of sin that entered this world. With sin comes selfishness, individualism, lust and greed. Relationships are broken and man betrays each other. Instead of caring for the other person, we only care for ourselves. Hence, divorce is a symbol of infidelity to God’s plan as well, when we turn away from our beloved and seek after false gods.
But it is difficult to accept the ideal of the indissolubility of marriage today, or even heterosexual relationships as the plan of God. Today, people are struggling with fidelity in marriage and even the definition of marriage itself. This is no surprise because the disciples also found the teaching of Christ too hard to swallow. We read, “Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.'”
That is why we must be like children when it comes to understanding the plan of God. Jesus said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” We might find the ideal of God’s plan too difficult to accept, but we know that deep in our hearts, this is what we are made for. Whether we can be true to our calling, is another question. But we should at least be docile and accept the divine plan of God for us in marriage. This is based on nature and we should not seek to try to change the laws of nature as some people try to do. Instead of fixing ourselves, we try to fix the laws. The laws of nature are perfect, but we are not perfect. So what is needed is that we work from our limitations and challenges. We need to acknowledge our difficulties and weaknesses. We might never reach it in our life time but we should not forget the ideals.
Indeed, the Church understands the struggles of humanity today because of the sinful situation we are in. That is why she advocates compassion, understanding, acceptance, encouragement and tolerance. There are some who, because of various reasons, some due to no fault of theirs, have difficulty in being faithful to their relationships. This was the same reason why Moses permitted divorce for his people even though it was against the Ten Commandments. The truth is that all of us are struggling against sin, whether it is infidelity, greed or any of the capital sins. For this reason, we should not judge, just as Jesus did not condemn the woman who was caught with adultery. But we must be tolerant, forgiving, accommodating and not be too judgmental. We are not in their shoes and so we should not be too ready to judge. The law is one thing, but the circumstances will determine whether the law can be easily observed.
At any rate, love is a process of growing and purifying, whether it is with respect to marriage, other relationships or with God. Hebrews tell us, “We see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind.” Jesus too had to die to Himself for us. We too are called to die for each other in love and in relationship. But conversion is not an instant moment. It begins with a call, but it is a lifelong decision to die to self every day for the love of someone.
We must follow Jesus and rely on His grace alone. The author of Hebrews says, “As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation.” He understands us because as the author says, “for the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers.” As a man, He empathized with us in our struggles. He was the compassionate High priest.
So let us never give up on each other and ourselves even if our life is not perfect. Let us be content to live with our imperfections and sins. But this is not to say that we do nothing. Let us remember that salvation by faith is His grace, not by good works. We just need to cooperate with His grace as much as we can. St Paul says, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) We continue to work and strive for the ideals of love and relationship. We might fail at times but we should never give up because it is difficult. Indeed, the psalmist reminds us, “O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways! By the labour of your hands you shall eat. You will be happy and prosper.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
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