One with God and one another

Frances writes on this weekend’s readings :- It is fascinating that the very earliest Biblical writer, the Yahwist, of the 10th century BC wrote his story of creation, Gen 2:18-24, (placed second in our Genesis account), from the perspective of the close, even intimate relationship between God the creator, and man. Humanity is  put on the earth in this account prior to all other creation. Indeed, so close is the God-man relationship that God gives man the task of naming the animals, and foresees that humanity should not be a solitary creature but live in relationship to the rest of creation and ultimately that he needs a partner, woman. The picture is one of the intimacy between man and woman, but also between God the creator and the creatures, human beings that he has made. There is pleasure and rejoicing in the very fleshliness of their being expressed in the action of God himself in making woman from the rib of Adam. It is a relationship of delight and respect in which God the creator is fully and intimately involved. The unity and solidarity of creator and creation is deeply etched onto this early account, which, unlike the better known and much later account of the Temple priests, with its near scientific understanding of the succession of created things, is a deeply theological reflection on the goodness of the God-man relationship.

 

It appears that the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews, (2:9-11), be it Paul or someone else a little later, was also at pains to stress this abiding relationship, even going so far as to stress the divine presence in each and every human being. This entire and lengthy letter, with its great Eucharistic focus concentrates on our God-given capacity for God, on the redemption wrought by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for us. Here, in our passage, he is insistent that Jesus, always totally one, in complete union with the Father, is by his Incarnation, his becoming human, totally and entirely one with us. He is not different from us, of some strange and exotic species, totally different from us. This means that when we are saved/redeemed, we are not as it were transformed into something other than we were. For we and Jesus are, as the writer puts it “Of the same stock”, or as the RSV puts it, following the Greek, we all have the same origin. Just as Christ Jesus was born a human being, so are we, we are one and the same with him, members of the human race, sarx, flesh. In rescuing us from sin and death, Jesus does not break the original mould and begin again with us, rather he takes what was always in us, as it was in himself, and refashions it according to the Father’s will, so that we too, who have lost that capacity for God may recover it and the lost intimacy that rightfully belongs to us all. The purpose of all this, according to Hebrews is “To bring a great many of his sons into glory.” The reasoning behind all this is quite clear and simple “It was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists…” In other words, it is the right and fitting thing for God the creator to do, it is what God is like, what God is. For God to be God he could not do less. The fact that, as the letter continues, we see that Christ achieves our redemption through suffering is again a mark of his total commitment and solidarity with the rest of humanity for whom life involves such suffering, pain and death. What we have here then is a wonderful picture, a meditation on the closeness of God and man, and we have to learn to let ourselves be held in that closeness. It’s something modern people with our love of independence find difficult. I shall shortly undergo yet more surgery, and am reminded how one has to give oneself totally into the hands of another at such moments – a small taste of divine love.

 

In our gospel, (Mark 10:2-16) Jesus argues this issue out with the Pharisees over the issue of divorce. They were hoping to trap him, accusing him of infringements of the Mosaic Law which did allow divorce. But Jesus pre-empts their action by deliberately taking the issue of marriage back to its Genesis origins and our first reading, reminding them of the shared gift and delight, their becoming one flesh, sarx in union, a reflection of divine love, and he puts before them the outrage therefore of divorce and remarriage as a fracturing of the divine intention. Indeed, those of us involved in divorce from a family perspective, and scarred for life by such tragedies, can readily agree that such actions do seem to run contrary to God’s plan for our mirroring of his love as seen in the relationship between Father and Son. We are made and designed for so much more, as both stories from the gospel remind us, both the question of divorce and that of the treatment of children and we need to open our hearts and minds to the infinite possibilities our life with God holds out to us.

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