The reading from the Letter of James today states unequivocally: “The Lord is compassionate and merciful. The framers of the Lectionary chose Psalm 103 as the response for today, and once again we hear, “The Lord is kind and merciful.” Throughout his ministry, Jesus sought to help people to understand God’s mercy and compassion. Many of those who heard Jesus came to believe in him. As a result, the Pharisees often confronted him with questions which were posed so as to discredit Jesus in the minds of the crowds who came to hear him. They were more concerned with preserving their own authority. Time and time again, they ask questions that were meant to trip Jesus up in his teaching.
Today’s Gospel selection recounts one such instance when the Pharisees fail to approach Jesus in good faith. They continue to try to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people. Their question concerns the marriage covenant that is made between a man and a woman.
Jesus answers their question with one of his own. What does Moses have to say? Here we must understand that the Pharisees accepted only what was contained in the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. If the Torah doesn’t speak of it, then the Pharisees don’t place their faith in it. So Jesus’ question forces them to admit that the Torah says that “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
Jesus’ message will not be subverted by clever ploys or distractions. God’s love for us is mirrored in the marriage covenant. God’s mercy and compassion are the focus of the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures. The message of love and mercy constantly sound in our ears and echo in our hearts so much so that the love of a man and a woman in marriage is an image of God’s love for us, the church.
Just as Jesus taught that humans cannot separate what God has joined, he also taught that nothing can separate us from God’s love. The Eucharist which we celebrate is the sacrament of God’s love.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator