for Sunday, October 3, 2021
Most of you look back with joy to your wedding day. Many of you are planning your wedding day. I think some of our young ladies started planning their wedding at around age 8. Weddings demand a lot of preparation. Well, maybe not 15 to 20 years, but in our American society, most wedding preparations take at least a year. There's the church---I hope they don't demand we meet too many times; the reception---where can we have a beautiful yet unique party and still get the most for our money?; the dresses--how can we be sure that all the girls look wonderful while the bride looks spectacular?; the flowers, the photos, oh yes, the guest lists and seating chart---who should we sit next to nasty old Aunt Martha?......wait did the priest RSVP? etc. etc. Weddings are fun, particularly when they are other people's weddings.
Today's first reading presents the first wedding, well, sort of. Actually it presents the foundation of marriage. We heard about the creation of Eve from one of Adam's ribs. From that point on, Eve counted Adam's ribs every night to be sure he was being faithful. OK, that wasn't in Genesis. Back to the scripture. The creation of Eve and the union of Adam and Eve seems to be a very simple story, one that might even appear to be childlike. But it isn't as simple as it might appear. The stories in Genesis are, in fact, deep meditations on the great questions of humanity: the origins of the universe and humankind, life, evil, and death. They were set in Genesis by inspired sages, wise men who believed profoundly in the hand of God. Everything happened because the Creator, in the beginning, so willed it. Nothing is the result of chance or accident.
These sages pondered the mystery of man and woman and the deep-seated impulse that attracts them to each other. Why is it that people marry? Why is it that people who appear very happy in the single state feel compelled to alter their lives and marry? Genesis presents the conviction of the sages that marriage came from God. It is willed by God, and it is good.
There are two accounts of creation in Genesis. The first account is found in the first chapter. That's the one of the seven days. The passage we have today comes from the second account, found in the second chapter of Genesis. Actually, this is the older of the two traditions of creation. It begins immediately with the creation of man from the clay of the ground. In a beautiful poetic image, God breathes into man's nostrils the breath of life and man becomes a living being. In this account of creation, man comes before all other living beings. Only after man is created does God plant a garden to place man in and call upon him to till it and care for it. The garden, Eden, was splendid, irrigated by a great river divided into four branches, with trees bearing excellent fruit. But the man was alone. This solitude was not good for him. God therefore decided to create a suitable partner for the man. God formed out of the ground various wild animals and birds of the air, and He brought them to the man to see what he would call them. They are made of the same matter as the man, but God does not breathe into them the breath of His life. They march past the man, and the man names them. Mankind is given mastery over all living beings and entrusted with their care. He names them. He describes their essence. And he knows that none of them are a suitable partner for him.
By discovering the world around him, its riches, its abundance of life, the man is faced with the realization that he is a creature set apart, a living being of a kind that is completely different than the innumerable beings that populate the sky and the earth. He can define all other living beings, call them by their names, but among them none are able in turn to name him, to act as someone with whom he can have a dialogue. There is no one on an equal footing with the man. No one with whom he can speak. No one with whom he can say, "You and I." Without someone to whom he could relate, man could not be made in the image of God. For God himself is not in solitude. The essence of God is plural in an infinite movement of love. The Other is in Him and He is in the Other. The movement of their love creates the Trinity. The mystery of the singular and the plural in God, would need to be created within mankind for man to be truly made in God's image.
Therefore, from the beginning God said, "I will make a suitable partner for the man." The Lord cast a deep sleep upon the man. Why the sleep? The deep sleep of the man is man not yet completed, not yet capable of opening his eyes to the world. The deep sleep returns the story to the first moment of human creation. Using a rib instead of the clay of the earth, God creates a like creature for the man, someone with whom he can relate, someone with whom he could cry out with wonder, "This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." The account emphasizes that from the beginning man and woman are created for each other as perfectly matched partners. "That is why," the passage concludes, "that is why a man breaks all other bonds, leaves father and mother, to cling to the woman who clings to him. The two become one flesh.
The ancient sages who wrote this account of Genesis are emphasizing that the attraction of men and women for each other comes from God. Sexuality has dignity, the dignity of the Divine. It is the desire to image God that drives men and women to union of lives, not just bodily needs. Men and women differ from the animals in that it is the search for communion that draws them together, not the impulse of carnal, uncontrollable and blind instinct. Men and women do not mate like animals. Men and women create a union of persons that reflects the union of the Triune God.
Now I am going to get even deeper. The difference of man and woman is far more profound and far more complementary than the physical aspects of this difference. Men and women are created to image with each other God's infinite love within the essence of His being. The sacrament of marriage, is not just a blessing of two individuals. It is the creation of a new reflection of the Love of God on earth.
For you who are married, understand how important you are to us all! We the single, we the celibate, we the separated, we the divorced, we the widowed, need you the married to embrace and to live the ideal of marriage.
And if you are planning a wedding, be it within a year, or 20 years from now, don't limit your wedding to all those fringe wedding accouterments. Don't just have a wedding. Choose to be married, really and truly married as God designed marriage. Allow God to be the center of your love. And then celebrate His Presence in the mystery of the single and the plural, in the mystery of marriage.
I pray every day for our married couples. I am edified by the way our husbands and wives happily make continual sacrifices for each other. I know that the ideal of marriage is difficult. But I also know that God gives you the strength to grow through all the challenges of life.
Together today we pray that all our married couples might continue to give witness to the presence of God in the union of husband and wife.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Genesis 2.7ab, 15, 18-24
Second Reading: Hebrews 2.9-11
Gospel: Mark 10.2-16
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his
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