September 30, 2009

Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Brian Pizzalato *

First ReadingGen. 2:18-24

Responsorial PsalmPs. 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

Second ReadingHeb. 2:9-11

Gospel ReadingMk. 10:2-16


The Catholic Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage is none other than that of Christ himself. This is precisely what we learn in this Sunday’s Gospel reading.


Jesus, in response to the question of the Pharisees about divorce, refers to “the beginning,” that is, what we also hear in this Sunday’s Old Testament reading from Genesis. “‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 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.” So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder’” (Mark 10:4-11).


As John Paul II said, in relation to this passage, “…that significant expression ‘from the beginning’…clearly induced his interlocutors to reflect on the way in which man was formed in the mystery of creation, precisely as ‘male and female’” (Wednesday audience, Sept. 5, 1979). What is God’s original plan for marriage and family? We must go back to the beginning, to creation, to the book of Genesis to find out.


“God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:27-28a). No other aspect of the material world is created in God’s image and likeness. Adam and Eve were created to share in the very life and love of God.


We know from the New Testament that this God is a Trinity of persons. Therefore, God created man, male and female, in the image of the Trinity. The three persons of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are an eternal communion of divine persons. God created Adam and Eve as a communion of human persons who share in the communion of the three divine persons. So God calls this married couple to imitate the life of the Trinity.


But, what is the inner life of the Trinity like? This is what the second and third persons of the Trinity came to make known. They came to reveal the inner life of God: who God is, and what he has been doing for all eternity. Jesus comes to show us that Trinitarian life is a life of life-giving, self-giving love. 1 John 4:8 and 4:16 tell us “Deus caritas est”: that is, “God is love.” The Trinity is not just loving; the Trinity is love itself. God’s very being and existence is love.


But, how do we know what love is, in order to understand who God is, he who the married couple is called to imitate and participate in? John gives us the answer: “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him” (1 John 4:9). What God does tells us about who God is. The Father gives the Son to give us life.


From all eternity, before the foundation of the world, the Father is pouring forth his white-hot love and life upon the Son. The Son, the perfect image of the Father, is eternally imaging the Father, pouring forth his love and life back upon the Father. This reciprocal love is none other than the third person of the Trinity. The Son never has to be concerned about himself, because the Father and the Holy Spirit are. The Father never has to be concerned about himself, because the Son and the Holy Spirit are. The Holy Spirit never has to be concerned about himself, because the Father and Son are. The definition of true love, rooted in who God is, is selflessness.


Selflessness is the key – self-denial, not selfishness. To say that there should be able to be divorce and remarriage, to separate what God has joined, is like saying that the three persons of the Trinity should be able to be ripped apart and joined to some other god, which is clearly absurd. Married couples are not called to falsify the image of Trinity, but to participate in, and imitate, the life-giving, self-giving love of the Trinity. (Annulment, by contrast, is the recognition that a sacramental marriage never existed.)


This does not mean marriage is easy, but, through the grace of the sacrament of matrimony, it is possible.

Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate, Diocese of Duluth and is a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England.

Brian writes a monthly column, “Veritatis Splendor,” for The Northern Cross of the Diocese of Duluth and his 33-part series on the sacraments for The Northern Cross have also been posted on Catholic News Agency's website, where he also authors a weekly column, “Road to Emmaus,” on the Sunday Readings, (which are translated into Romanian and posted on

Pizzalato is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute. He is also author of the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition at the Maryvale Institute.

Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. Brian currently pursuing an M.A. in Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO as well as being a Ph.D. candidate at the Maryvale Institute. Brian is married and has six children.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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