The National Catholic Review

This Sunday’s readings all work to deepen for us a common conundrum, paradox or challenge: relationality—how any of us is related with everything else. The extraordinary reading from Genesis situates the original human as “alone” until it has named the animals and been configured into a male and a female. We can think of naming as an act of domination or proprietorship, as it sometimes is. Or we may see it as an action of intimacy, an acknowledgment and embrace of relationship: The human knows who the animals are and at least one of the emergent humans knows the other.  We may ponder the absent, unspoken words of the woman to the man and wonder why God calls the first human “alone” when God is present.  (The letter to the Hebrews struggles with a similar dynamic: How Jesus is both so like us and also so different.)  The patriarchal family emerges only after the man and woman eat the fruit in the garden and is characterized as consequent on that poor choice of theirs. That view of family is present in the psalm response to the first reading. It sounds serene, but—as with the Genesis reading—we might pause to ponder or preach on what is missing from the scene.

The Gospel challenges the patriarchal household and its imbalanced independence in several ways, I think. Jesus dethrones the male to some extent in a marriage, arguing for a greater mutuality than was customary. He re-values children (for those who read the “longer” version of the Gospel). And he asserts that God is thoroughly present with the humans in marriage: no “alone” here! God who joins humans, who helps relate one creature to another, is the ground of all our relating to each other. We are not the same as each other, not dominating, not owning or collapsed into each other. We are in deep co-creatural relationship, abetted and assisted by the creator of all.  

Barbara Green, O.P.

Comments

Anonymous | 10/5/2009 - 11:11am
More than dethroning the male, Jesus brings equality to the marriage and to the sexes generally.  Of course, some would rather proof text this verse as an attack on gay marriage.  It was not meant to be that and should not be read that way.  If anything, what Jesus and the Genesis writer say about the two becoming one flesh is a reason why gay marriage is essential, since there is no reason why heterosexual couples can be legally separated from their families and legally joined to their spouses while gay couples cannot be.