Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 3, 2021
Fr. José Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
Sunday Reading Meditations
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the people that the Law of Moses permitted divorce because their “hardness of heart” had prevented them from understanding the nature of marriage as a faithful and indissoluble union between a man and a woman. Jesus’ teaching about marriage was as difficult to grasp in his time as it is in ours. We can only understand Jesus’ doctrine on marriage with the help of the Holy Spirit. Christ reveals what we truly are and what we are called to be. Without him, we can easily succumb to the prevailing mentality.
In the same passage, Jesus also explains God’s original plan: “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. […] Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk 10:5–9).
We cannot read this passage without being reminded of Saint John Paul II’s catechesis on human love in the divine plan, known as the theology of the body. As our patron saint explains, in this passage Jesus recalls “the beginning” to show that only in God’s original plan can we find the true meaning of human love.
According to the Dictionary of Biblical Theology, “(h)ardness of heart characterizes the state of the sinner who refuses to be converted and who remains separated from God.” In the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Mary Healy writes: “Hardness of heart, literally sklērokardia, sclerosis of the heart, is a stubborn refusal to yield to God and his ways. It is the willful blindness to truth for which Jesus has chided the Pharisees and even his disciples.”
Is not the redefinition of marriage a blatant example of the “hardness of heart” in our times? Contemporary man has great difficulty accepting God as the Creator. Modern culture does not acknowledge that our nature is God given. The dominant mentality promotes the illusion that we can be the creators of ourselves. The Serpent’s temptation is more enticing than ever: “You will be like gods” (Gen 3:5).
Secularization has ostensibly separated God from the world. Modernity claims that man is autonomous from God. It attempts to obfuscate the truth that we have one origin. As today’s second reading says, “(h)e who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin” (Heb 2:11). We come from the Father’s hands. For him and through him, all things exist (Cf. Heb 2:10).
We need to rediscover the truth that God is the Creator. In the Nicene Creed, we say: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” When we recognize God as our Creator and Father, we are truly blessed. As today’s responsorial psalm says, “(b)lessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored” (Ps 128:1–2).
Our hardness of heart can be overcome through conversion. As Psalm 95 says, “(o)h, that today you would hear his voice: do not harden your hearts” (Ps 95:7–8).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that we must become childlike to enter the kingdom of God: “[…] whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mk 10:15). To enter into the kingdom of God means to enter into God’s plans and live accordingly. To be childlike is the opposite of being hardhearted. To be childlike is to have a pure heart, the ability to see all things as coming from God and returning to him. We are called to conversion, from hard hearts to childlike hearts.
With Jesus, we return to the beginning. May the Holy Spirit help us understand Jesus’ teachings. May we surrender to God and his ways, and thus find the path to true happiness. Amen.