Thursday, February 12, 2009

It Is Not Good For The Man To Be Alone.

When God made the heavens and the earth, even before any grass or shrubbery had begun to grow, God formed man out of the clay of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Then God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. God made all sorts of trees grow in the garden, trees beautiful to look at, with fruit good to eat. He put the man he had just made in the garden, and set him to work the ground and keep it in good order. God told the man: “You can eat the fruit of any tree in the garden except one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Don’t eat from that tree, because from the moment you eat from it, you are surely doomed to die.

Then God said, “It’s not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion and partner for him.” So God formed from the clay all sorts of animals of the fields and birds of the air. He brought them all to the man to see what names he would give them. And whatever the man called each living creature that would be its name. So, the man named the cattle, and the birds, and the wild beasts, but none of them proved to be a suitable partner for him. So God put the man into a deep sleep and as he slept he removed one of the man’s ribs, and replaced it with flesh. God then used that rib to form a woman, and presented her to the man.

The man said: At last! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! She will be called “woman” for she was made from man. That is why a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh. Both of them, the man and his wife were naked, but they felt no shame.

Because yesterday’s reflection was devoted to Pope Benedict’s message for the World Day of the Sick, today’s reflection includes both Wednesday and Thursday’s First Reading, from the book of Genesis. As a parish priest for nearly forty years, I have celebrated more marriages than I can count. As a Tribunal official for more than thirty, I have participated as an advocate, a defender of the bond, and a judge over more annulment case than I can count. On the one hand, I have seen and shared in the joy of the newly married couples; on the other hand, I have heard and sympathized with the sorrow of those whose marriages have failed. The number of marriages I have witnessed on behalf of the Church, and later acted as an officer of the Tribunal after the divorce is another number I can’t count.

Marriage is the only sacrament of the Church that finds its origins in the story of creation found in the first book of Holy Scripture. It is a story about oneness: This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. It is a story of innocence: The man and wife were naked, but unashamed. But it is a story which is only just begun, in this passage from Genesis. Tomorrow, we will consider another part of the story, which will end with the man and his wife hiding themselves among the trees in the garden, because they were ashamed, and did not want the Lord God to see them naked.

I have learned, in nearly four decades of priestly ministry, that married couples experience joy and sorrow; pleasure and pain; fullness and emptiness. But the fulfillment of these relationships, even those which are sublimely successful, will not be achieved until the spouses are united once again in the second paradise, the Heavenly Kingdom. In the meantime, let us pray for married couples, that they may realize that they are cooperators in the work of the Creator. Let us pray for couples whose marriage is troubled, that they will cooperate with the graces granted to them by the Spirit to heal and strength their bond. Let us pray for men and women whose marriages have ended in separation and divorce, that they might realize that they are called to unite their sorrow and suffering with the work of redemption wrought in Gethsemane and on the Cross by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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