Family Fission

Oftentimes, it is the idiosyncrasies of the Scriptures, particularly the Lectionary, and the way readings are set before us in the Mass, that catch my attention. Many Sundays the Gospel and Old Testament reading are clearly connected, and serve to bring unity to the Word of God across the supposed divide of the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant,” while the Epistle seems quite unrelated. In many of these cases, the Psalm, too, supports the unity set forward.

This Sunday, we find this to be the case on the surface; however, I will try to draw connections to the Epistle that may help us more fully appreciate what the “more important” Scriptures are telling us. (This I say rather facetiously, but as one who possibly looks more frequently at the texts of the Mass, the Second Reading is often a tremendous treasure of the spiritual life that gets overlooked when the First Reading and Gospel are so closely tied.)

The words we receive this week are very clear and powerful in their defense and promotion of the beauty of married life. There really can be no confusing this. However, coupling with the words from the Letter to the Hebrews, I think there is a necessary message to be gleaned in reference to even the relationship between men and women in the broadest sense.

Cultural trends encompassing the past 50 years or more have succeeded in driving a tremendous wedge between sister and brother, daughters and sons of God, by adoption in Christ the Lord. The news of the last month, the explosion of contraceptives, the rampant advocacy of abortion and the observable inequalities in the workplace illustrate an enmity between the sexes that is truly and mutually destructive to the human family. General vilification of the opposite sex manifests either a growing mistrust of the other, at best, or a long-stewing (and believed by some to be appropriate) fundamental hatred of the other, at worst. No matter which facets of these complex and nuanced occurrences may resonate with you, it is crucial not to fail by blaming all men, all women, all Republicans, all Democrats — these issues are human ones, not political ones.

Without taking a side, let me simply declare that this conflict has the fingerprints of the Evil One all over it. It sure looks like the garden all over again: the mutual blame, the passing of the buck, the rejection of God’s guidance, the division. It’s the same playbook, the same call, and, in human hands, the same result. There is no winner to be found here; we all have already lost.

However, that loss is the principle reason God became incarnate to effect our redemption.

What we’re bound to believe as Catholic Christians is that man and woman both have their origin in God, not necessarily that God literally took a chunk of Adam and formed Eve of that flesh. The primary thrust of this week’s second reading is that both we and Jesus, who consecrates us to God by his own Passion, have in God a common origin: He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin (Hebrews 2:11a).

Wherever we allow this closet hatred of our sister or brother, wife or husband, daughter or son to take root and bear fruit, we endanger the relationship among the very subatomic particles of the nuclear family. The very differences between us that knit us so closely together have been upset by the introduction of sin. We should recognize the horrible, horrible ruin that is taking place on a global human scale.

In nature, the splitting of an atom leads to catastrophe. We shouldn’t doubt that in human relationships the same should occur. It has been prophesied in many places that the assault of evil would center upon the family unit. In this case, truly the only difference in the analogy of nuclear fission is that it isn’t the element of hydrogen that is split, it is the human element, the union of man and woman.

I’ve written many times before of the need for us each to grow in relationship with God, for every one of our number to draw near to the Lord’s heart by prayer, Sacrament and sacrifice; but on this issue, it is especially pressing — even necessary — to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit in strengthening the love of God in us. Pray that we return to the value and esteem the Scriptures heap upon Christian marriage.

We know well that to err is human, but what we need to remember is that to forgive is divine — not that only God does the forgiving, but that in forgiving our sister or brother, our wife or husband, our mother or father, we touch God and heal the human family.

David Dunst
Director of Music and Liturgy

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