B Cycle – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
There is no doubt we have a deep hunger and need within us which we are driven to satisfy. That longing or desire has been identified by those who study human behavior as a force we are motivated to satisfy. They tell us we seek to be secure, to be affirmed, to be loved, to be recognized, for self-esteem, for significance, and more. Yet, when we do achieve them, they never seem to bring us the joy and satisfaction they promised. Then we strive for more ow what we received as we try to find that one thing in our life that will bring us peace and joy. It seems we were created with these desires implanted in us by our creator. In fact, St. Augustine said “our hearts are restless until they rest in God.” He knew by experience that desire to search for happiness and experienced the unhappiness that quest creates in us. We are lured by them as if they still hold that key to happiness. Augustine knew how empty it left him and ultimately, he cried out to God for his weakness to end.
Today in the first reading we have a glimpse of how God designed marriage to provide a means to satisfy those desires. We can feel and sense Adam’s sense of incompleteness in a perfect place in the center of all God creation. The beauty of the earth before him, the magnificent heavens above him each night, the beauty of birds, plants, insects, and animals filled him with wonder and awe, but something was missing.
Adam like Augustine had a longing for something to satisfy those human desires within him. He was unfulfilled and God’s answer to his longings was to create someone for Adam to love and share intimacy with. When Adam laid eyes on Eve his response came from the heart saying, “at last this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” in their union we find the essence of what God intended by creating us and filled us with a desire to love and be loved. That desire for a love so giving it will satisfy in every heart all we seek, all that drives us. Marriage as intended by God is intended to reflect God’s love for us. It what we long for, love so completely centered on us it changes us. We learn to trust our lover and surrender our lives to them. However, we do not seem to experience that kind of love because we want our spouse to give everything, we seek without giving back to them.
That leads us to today’s gospel and the sad fact marriages fail; divorce happens even to Catholics. Those questioning Jesus that day wanted him to tell them it is ok to divorce because Moses allowed them to write a bill of divorce. Jesus responds by reminding them of why marriages exist as well as revealing a spiritual truth, to love anyone as God intended our hearts need to change.
We fail to love as God intended because we have not allowed God to be the source which satisfies our desires. The gift of our spouse was to help us grow in the arena of love by our willingness to die for them. We were created to love as God loves by giving of ourselves, dying to self with a total focus on our spouse. When we are both doing that for each other love never stagnates, instead it grows. Remember the passage from Paul when he tells us men “Husband’s love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph.5:25). We were not created to lord it over our wives but to always be giving to them. Yes, marriages fail and, in all cases. it is due to a failure of one or both not giving themselves up for the other.
The sad truth is we are selfish individuals who seek to satisfy our hunger from every source other than from God. We want to be happy and that makes us want rather than to give. We also fail due to our inability to receive because we have a poor image of God and of ourselves. That lack in us impacts our marriages and it keeps us from a deepening intimate relationship our spouse and with God. Instead of intimacy with God we spend a lot of time trying to make ourselves appealing to God so we can feel worthy of his blessings.
This gospel passage about divorce is often avoided in homilies because divorce is a real issue in society and among Catholics with 30% of Catholic marriages ending in divorce. Not to mention the concept of marriage has changed in society with many are opting out of marriage.
With divorce comes pain, guilt, anger, resentment and often alienation from the Church. Jesus is telling us marriages is intended to create trust and intimacy between a man and a woman. They are to become one in heart, mind and soul. Jesus is advocating a total focus on loving the other and giving up everything for the other. He is telling us it is necessary for us to allow the Spirit to transform our hearts to satisfy that hunger within us. He is telling us how we can discover the love God has for us by loving each other by loving them by serving them. Marriages fail because we have allowed the world to influence our thinking of where happiness lies instead of seeking the fullness of life Jesus said he came to give.
The church knows selfishness is at the root of a failed marriage and the church seeks to heal the wounded heart of those impacted by divorce. Jesus is telling us our desires can only be satisfied by Him and by seeking intimacy with Christ we will satisfy that deep hunger within us. Remember we were told to seek first the kingdom of God and all things would be added. Well instead of questioning the things that we feel restricts us in our faith we should be seeking God’s promise to provide us all we need to rid ourselves of self-seeking desires. God promised to equip us for holiness by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit will begin that process the instant we surrender to its work in us.
Marriages are the fruitful ground for us to grow into the person God created us to be. We will learn how a sacrificial love transforms a marriage and deepens the bonds of love between spouses and spills over to deepen the love between parents and their children. Transformed hearts touches others and it creates in them a desire to experience the transforming power of God. A satisfied heart seeks happiness in the kingdom of God on earth. A satisfied heart seeks love, affirmation, security, self-esteem, recognition, love, joy, happiness from their relationship with God and brings that kind of love to those they love.