Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time B
October 3, 2021 Mark 10: 2-16
By Rev. John Tran
Believe it or not, today’s gospel from Mark is all about compassion. Let me begin with a story by Patricia McGerr named The Eight Cow Wife.
It is about a society which still had the custom of a dowry for a wife. In this story a man in one of the Pacific Islands who offered a father 8 cows for his daughter. She was a plain woman who was too thin. She walked with her shoulders bent down and her head low. She had no self-esteem whatsoever. Still the man offered 8 cows to her father for her when 3 cows was usual, and 5 would have been considered the most. And yet months after the marriage a person visited them and found the wife the most beautiful woman he had ever seen; She lifted her shoulders and held her head up high. The fact that her husband loved her and respected her enough to offer 8 cows, made her a different person. When two people love each other more than themselves call the best in the other.
In the first reading from Genesis, it is made very clear that it is God who treasures love between a man and woman; God blesses the union between them. The two become one and are helpmates to each other. It points out that together married people are stewards of all that God made. Together, they participate in the creative power of God by bringing forth new life which is cherished as God’s most precious gift.
So the Gospel today in not just a prohibition against ending a marriage; it is about compassion. In Jesus’ time, as we have seen, women and children rarely owed property and had no independent ways to make a living. This loving relationship between a man and woman made sure that the most vulnerable of society, women and children, were supported and protected, and even cherished. Jesus was reminding his hearers that marriage came from God and was blessed by him. Jesus comes down squarely on the side of the poor and weak. He was coming down on the side of people who were powerless and defenseless.
The second section of today’s Gospel is talking about the Kingdom of God, and what it will take to enter into that Kingdom. This is a theme that has been present in the last few Sundays in various ways. Here Jesus tells us that if we are not like a child we will not enter into the kingdom. Why?
First, a child is humble, that is, a child does not have power over anyone, he or she can’t decide if a person lives, or has a job, or gets married. A child is powerless, and needs to have things done for it. A child is often embarrassed by being in the public eye, seen bashful, and has not yet learned to discover his or her own importance.
Second, a child is generally willing to be taught and will obey a person he or she loves, well usually.
Third, a child trusts easily. A child thinks its parents know everything. A child wants to learn about his or her world. They ask ‘why’ so often. I remember that went I was about 6 or 7, my grandfather told me that if is did not ask ‘why’ for ten minutes, he would give me a dime. I never saw that dime. Also, a child has confidence in other people. The child expects other to be good, can make friends with strangers. A great man once said that the greatest compliment he ever received was when a child he did not know asked him to tie his shoelaces. The child has not yet learned to suspect the world.
Fourth, the child has a short memory and forgive easily. He does not carry a grudge for long, or feed on bitterness. These are the characteristics of a person who is ready to enter God’s Kingdom. It is the image of a truly Christian person; the image of a partner in a marriage. Jesus is calling on us to be compassionate and self-giving. With these qualities a person in open to God with a whole heart. Isn’t this the image of Jesus Christ?