The Gospel reading for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time endangers much misinterpretation and confusion. Many choose to take the center of this passage out of context and argue Jesus was against divorce.
“Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this… Jesus told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”
The passage begins, “Because of the hardness of your hearts.” The passage gives two examples, divorce and children. It ends with a blessing. It is about the game of life. When the game focuses upon the rules, the game stops and all debate the rules. Bald parents try to decide who goes with what or who hit whom first. They are bald from pulling out their hair in frustration. Smart parents say, “Be nice and play!” The same with adults, and divorce.
People were bringing children to him…When Jesus saw this he became indignant, “Let the children come to me… for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these..”
One rabbinic story tells of a rich man who decided to kill his wife. Wanting it to be legal, he asked the rabbi how to do this. The rabbi simply stated, “Go to the altar, promise to give God $10,000 if she lives and remains happy, and then break your promise.” This the rich man did. After six months, his wife was still alive and healthy. He returned to the rabbi and asked why. The rabbi retorted, “God is not stupid; you must go through the motions of loving your wife. Then maybe God will be convinced, and…” This the rich man did. His wife responded and he fell in love with his wife again. His wife became ill, and lay on her deathbed. The rich man returned to the rabbi in grief and asked what to do. The rabbi responded, “There is the little matter of $10,000.
Save your $10 grand. Think of baseball: it needs rules; four balls and you are on first base. Three strikes or you are tagged, or someone catches your hit, and you are out. Overly precisely define the strike zone, try to decide within fractions of a second if the runner or the ball arrived into the glove, and the game stops. Bald adults focus up such as this. It makes them bald. Children want to play. Husband and wife marry. At one time, they found something in common with each other and can find it again. Jesus is not teaching about divorce; he is teaching about marriage, the game of husband and wife learning to live together as one flesh.
In marriage, and in life it is about the game, being pastoral with each other. Always imagine ourselves as a sixth graders. Be lighthearted and playful. For Jesus, the focus is not upon divorce, or none, but upon being leaders who play the role of the rabbi in the above story, and teach people how to live together.
In the sower parable the good soil is aerated soil; the soil of the path, trampled down and hard. Our Gospel ends, “Jesus embraced them, blessed them, and placing his hands on them.” The inclusio begins by condemning hard hearts. It ends with Jesus example, being soft. Be pastoral and help each other play the game of life. Le Chaim, to life!