A reflection by Fr. Ron MacDonell, S.F.M., on Genesis 2.7ab, 15, 18-24, Hebrews 2.9-11, and Mark 10.2-16

For many years, I served people in poor rural communities in the Amazon region of Brazil as part of a pastoral team. In community meetings, we would often hear of the domestic violence suffered by women at the hands of their husbands, who usually engaged in excessive drinking. God does not want us to live with violence. Instead, God invites us to respect and love each other, especially in the union of marriage, where the two “become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

As we celebrated Mass with the communities, we would reflect with the people on this reading from Genesis and how it might apply to their lives. In the cultural language of Genesis, woman is created from one of the man’s ribs – not from his head or his foot – to be a companion to the man. She is like his rib, close to his heart, at his side, working and sharing. The man realizes that she is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” They are part of each other.

We also presented to the communities the other reading from Genesis where God created man and woman at the same time. “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them” (Genesis 1.27). This account underlines the equality of man and woman before God, of the human dignity of each gender. In many societies, it is women who often suffer violence, both physical and psychological, at the hands of men. This is not living in the image of God, the Divine image we are called to reflect. All violence must cease. God is love and we are called to love.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus addresses the legalistic challenge of the Pharisees concerning divorce. Jesus reaffirms the union of the man and woman, and goes further by pointing to the eternal aspect of the union: “what God has joined together, let no one separate.” This is a lofty ideal! How often couples face challenges in their marriage. Sometimes these challenges are insurmountable. The call by Jesus today is to take our vocation seriously, whether it be marriage, or priesthood, or religious life, or the single life. It is a call to fidelity, to enter our commitment with a loving heart that is open to live the commitment for eternity.

Jesus also calls us to be like children: “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Children are spontaneous, innocent, trusting, joyful, playful, ready to cry and ready to laugh. These are the qualities we are invited to embrace as we journey in life, building the kingdom here on earth, hoping and trusting in its eternity. In doing so, our hope is that, as the letter to the Hebrews states, Jesus will call us his “brothers and sisters.”