Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
When Morris and Rose Michtom founded their toy company in 1907 in Queens, New York, and later moved to New Jersey, they called it the “Ideal toy company.” It lasted under that name for 90 years, only to merge with the Mattel company. The name choice was an unspoken desire on their part to be “the standard of perfection or excellence” which is the very definition of “ideal.” Among their creations were “Betsy Wetsy”, the “Toni doll,” “Lamb Chop puppet,” and “Model Cars.” Their last big hit was the “Rubik’s Cube.”
The ideal is, according to the dictionary, “a person or thing conceived as embodying such a conception, (of perfection or excellence) or conforming to such a standard, and taken as a model for imitation.” So then, Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce ranks as the ideal. It is something to strive for, something to imitate to the best of one’s ability.
A married couple, specifically a man and a woman, form “one flesh.” It is a positive dynamic. The reverse side, which is divorce, is at best a negative one. Admittedly, there are valid exceptions to Our Lord’s absolute teaching. But the ideal remains. It is a call to “reach for the stars” inasmuch as two flawed human beings are capable of it.
The Church’s laws reflect that desire of Jesus as Love itself to aid and assist couples to live out their love in the ideal. They are not meant to imprison couples whose struggle is no longer possible and make the ideal impossible to conceive much less achieve.
With the stroke of his pen, St. Mark switches to an easier topic, that of Jesus interacting with children, the gift that results from marital unions. It is telling about the disciples how they regarded the children as nuisances, something we must definitely resist in this anti-child culture of death that surrounds us. Instead, Jesus “becomes indignant” over their attitude and welcomes the children with His warm smile and gentle embraces.
Then Jesus uses the occasion to teach His disciples (and us) about what our attitude about God’s kingdom, including its teaching, should be. It is a whole hearted acceptance without any strings attached. Obviously there is no place for the gamesmanship involved in what is called “cafeteria Catholicism.” in which a person picks and chooses which teaching of Christ and His Church he or she will believe.
For my conclusion, with a dash of appropriate humor, I offer the following opinion of an unhappy spouse to a marriage counselor: “When I got married I was looking for an ideal. Then it became an ordeal. Now I want a new deal.”
Reading I: Genesis 2: 18-24
God concludes that man should not be alone and needs a helpmate like himself. So He creates for man a woman, taken from his own body. Marriage thus becomes a necessary part of the creation story.
Reading II: Hebrews 2: 9-11
Jesus’ abandonment to death is a component of His “being made lower than the angels.” Since we have all been baptized in Christ, we have the same heavenly Father.
The Gospel: Mark 10: 2-16, or 10: 2-12
Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce challenges His followers in every age. However, it is God’s plan from the very beginning, presenting a positive picture of this vocation.