October 2, 2009

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Genesis, the source of the first reading for this weekend, includes stories of creation, and precisely of the creation of women.

Sadly, the creation narratives of Genesis have become such a battleground and are so badly misunderstood that people rarely turn to them for personal insight into reality itself.

Yet, the creation narratives abound in great wisdom and exceptional insight. For example, this reading reveals that women, as well as men, are of divine creation, and that women are men’s equals in human dignity since they share the same nature.

Even so, profound differences between the genders pertain. This fact humbles neither gender. Instead, it proclaims the individuality of each person as real and physical, and also says that all humans are in the one community of humanity.

Genesis does not take procreation for granted. Procreation is a God-given ability, and it requires the closest of bonds between a man and a woman. In this bond, if truly worthy of humans and of their sublime nature, love is the adhesive. So procreation is the product of human love. In this, human procreation reflects God.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is the source of the second reading.

Hebrews magnificently extols the majesty of Jesus, the Son of God made flesh. Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior, links with us in the unbreakable bond of human nature.

St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

This passage, somewhat but not exactly duplicated in the Gospel of Matthew, is one of the most discussed sections of the New Testament.

Intrigue lay behind the question put to Jesus as to whether or not divorce could be permitted. If nothing else, taking a strong stand, one way or the other, could plunge Jesus into a debate among Jewish religious scholars.

Divorce in first-century Judaism was no great boon to women. It was an unregulated, strictly personal action by husbands alone, and divorced women simply were cast out onto the mercy of society.

Additionally, King Herod’s family was riddled with infidelity. To denounce divorce easily could have been twisted to be a denunciation of the unforgiving Herod.

Instead, Jesus returned to the basic revelation of God about human life. Marriage is a bond between a man and woman that reflects the very life and reality of God.


The Austrian emperor and Hungarian king, Karl, who saw his empire dismembered then collapse during World War I, died in exile but has been beatified. He was recognized by the Church not because of his political prowess, but because of his personal holiness.

Several years before coming to the throne, Karl married an Italian princess, Zita, who also was a devoted Catholic throughout her long life. Her deep faith, it was said, enabled her to bear her husband’s humiliation and her own decades of widowhood.

Before their wedding, Karl and Zita made formal, silent retreats. They made the retreats, they explained, because as husband and wife their chief responsibility would be to help each other attain heaven. This was paramount. It came before governing the vast empire. It even came before parenting. It came before everything else.

It was a view of marriage that many people now would regard as excessively religious simply because our society’s values, at least our cultural values, have become so outrageously irreligious.

The words of Jesus in this weekend’s Gospel, as well as the story from Genesis, tell us that marriage is a profoundly religious reality in which God must be first. It utilizes a great capacity of humans to love, and also the ability to procreate. These are God’s gifts. Humans possess these gifts for a purpose.

The purpose is to join with God, now and eternally, and to bring God to human life and experience. †

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