Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

From the beginning of creation...


Hold this picture-thought.

After leaving there, he came into the territory of Judaea and Transjordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, 'Is is lawful for a man to divorce his wife?' They were putting him to the test. He answered them, 'What did Moses command you?' They replied, 'Moses allowed us to draw up a writ of   dismissal in cases of divorce.' The Jesus said them, 'It was because you were so  hard hearted that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female. This is why a man leaves his father and mother, and the two become one flesh. They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide.' Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.' Mark 10:1-12

At face value Jesus is giving us a new law about marriage. If that's the case, then we must acknowledge that the teaching is much more strict than the rules of the Church today. There's much more going on here than that, but we must look at the larger context to understand.

A few lines before and then immediately following the twelve verses above, Jesus makes two references to children. They serve as bookends to the verses about divorce.

Then he took a little child and stood him in front of them all, and putting his arm round him, said to them, "Anyone who welcomes one little child like this for my sake welcomes me. And the man who welcoming me is welcoming not only me but the one who sent me!" Mark 9:36,37

Then some people came to him bringing little children for him to touch. The disciples tried to discourage them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant and told them, "You must let little children come to me - never stop them!  For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Indeed, I assure you  that the man who does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Then he took the children in his arms and laid his hands on them and blessed them" Mark 10: 13-16 

Then right between these two references and in the middle of the verses about divorce, (did you catch it?) Jesus says, "But from the beginning of creation God made them..."

Jesus is inviting us to accept his teaching and live with the utter simplicity and acceptance of children. And the focus of the teaching in this chapter is the words, "the beginning of creation." 

Lots of people believe that the end time will be the moment of God's punishing evil and rewarding good. There's scripture to support that belief. But they also like to think of themselves as rewarded and the people they don't approve of as punished. But all the more, (and this was not an unusual Jewish belief in Jesus' time) in the end, creation will be restored to its original plan or state. 

The most well known psalm 23:2-3 suggests this restoration, "Beside restful waters he leads me, he refreshes my soul."  In the Book of Job, poor Job having lost everything is promised a new beginning. And we remember the rainbow after the flood waters receded and Noah and his family left the ark - creation as it was in the beginning. 

So the verses about divorce are really much more about our eventual return to the state of right relatedness. Our destiny is to "return to the garden," a garden of such delight and where we walked with God in the cool of the evening. God will give back to us what we've lost.

I remember our third grade class being introduced to the Encyclopedia Britannica in the mid 1950's and sitting with classmates writing our first research reports. Somehow volume E wound up in front of me, and how I enjoyed the discovery of everything about elephants, especially the differences between African and Indian elephants. The picture accompanying the article was something like the one above. 

What ancient memory must reside in these marvelous animals! And how horrifyingly awful it is that an elephant is shot and killed every fifteen minutes. A world without elephants?! That since those 3rd grade days elephants are near extinction, because ruthless, greedy people want the money that's made by stealing their tusks. How we insult God!

I really need to believe that in the end, God, in His most wonderful creative imagination, will not leave us in sorrow before all the terrible losses of this earth: our destroying the animals and plants, spoiling the water and air, blowing up the mountains and ripping out everything below the earth to make things that we then throw away. In effect, turning the entire, spinning planet into a huge heap of trash . 

Oh Jesus my God, that we would know the truth of your words, that in the end, we will know creation "as it was in the beginning." And Jesus, that I would miss nothing and appreciate deeply everything of what remains. Amen.

8 comments:

  1. I appreciate the end point in that we should look forward to the restoration of the creation, all that is good. But I am not relating this the what you are saying about marriage and divorce here in relation to Jesus' teachings.

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    1. I'm not a biblical scholar AT ALL. But I do enjoy biblical study - especially study of the Gospels. So this was a new idea for me, born of examining the context in which the marriage/divorce verses appear. Often we take verses out of context and arrive at understandings which the biblical author didn't intend. It is interesting to note that if the marriage/divorce sayings are taken out of the larger "creation restored" context that Jesus is demanding observances that are more strict than what the Church applies today. Like I said, a new insight for me, but I enjoy encountering new understandings and exploring where they might lead. That's how the Gospel is forever new - Good News forever!

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  2. A young child brings us as close to creation as we can get, unspoiled and untouched by the evils that surround us. If we can see the world through a child's eyes, can imagine the world anew.

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  3. And shame on those who refuse to believe we are not changing things. Look at these majestic creatures and know that they are just but one of many species we have harmed or done in completely. I really need to believe with my whole heart that God can forgive us.

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  4. Thank you Father for sharing your insights with us for it helps to expand my own thinking.

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  5. I never want my mind to be frozen to the things of the Gospel - even when I am taken (perhaps uncomfortably) beyond what I thought I knew. Pope Pius XII was the pope who invited Catholics into the world of biblical scholarship. And as the Gospels are not a story-book, nor a history book, nor a newspaper account, but theological works, I want to know who the authors were writing to (their audience) and what their intent was when they formed their Gospels. Then I am in a better position to understand the gospel account for myself (ourselves) today. When we know the gospels this way, our prayer will change too.

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  6. From the beginning of creation he made them male and female-and they become one flesh. And the welcoming of children. It is clear to me what Jesus is saying. It might sadden God what we have done with this world entrusted to us, but also that we disregard his commandments to allow divorce so readily and to allow unions between people other than what God intended. We might read things differently, but it is in the Gospel.

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  7. Well of course, who's to say what can be done with a biblical text. It was part of the Protestant Reformation that allowed people: "What do YOU think a bible verse means." Who's to say no. But when we read any bible account what we first need to do is understand what the author meant in writing it in the first place. That's really all I did here. And if we DON'T do that and take any verse just at face value then we need to be ready to "gouge out our eyes and cut off our feet and hands," and ready to "own nothing." YIKES!

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