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Homily for October 3, 2021 – Sunday the 27th Week in Ordinary time

Fr. John Denburger, OCSO

Sunday the 27th Week in Ordinary time

(Genesis 2: 18 – 24; Ps. 128; Hebrews 2: 9 – 11; Mark 10: 2 – 16)

In the second letter to Timothy St. Paul wrote: “…from your infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, the source of wisdom which through faith in Jesus Christ leads to salvation. All Scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching – for reproof, correction, and training in holiness so that the man of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3: 15ff)

Paul’s teaching was never theory; it came from his own experience of the Scriptures, from his profound love of the Word, first as a Pharisee then as a follower of the Lord. Case in point – today’s passage from Genesis and Mark: St. Paul listened, meditated, prayed into these passages and heard more than the account of God’s creation of marriage – he heard more than Jesus’ teaching about the sacredness, the seriousness of the union of a man and woman.

We hear the fruit of his patient, prayerful listening in chapter 5 of the Letter to the Ephesians; he wrote: “…a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two shall be made one” and then, Paul adds: “This is a great foreshadowing; I mean that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Eph 5: 31f) The love of the Lord Jesus is revealed, manifested in a human union – this union, a marriage Paul perceived to be much, much more than human attraction and commitment. In the Letter to the Hebrews, we hear proclaimed this love of Christ, love that suffered death for our sake, that is revealed in the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Through his prayerful listening, St. Paul himself becomes a living teaching – this is what life in Christ, Baptismal life, entails – reading, listening, reflecting on God’s sacred Word so that through the Word our Lord can captivate more and more, lead us more and more into the Divine Mystery. Paul did write; “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

The scene of Jesus with the children, at first listening, appears to be a recounting of Jesus’ popularity, His attractiveness – it does not seem to have anything to do with Jesus’ teaching on marriage but it does. His teaching is demanding, calling spouses to faithful, loving commitment – we know that even His own disciples found His way upsetting. Through His welcome and blessing of the children He is saying that unless one is receptive, trusting in His wisdom, His truth one will not or cannot accept His word. A person must be childlike – not

childish – one must have the openness, trust, receptivity of a child – it is a matter of grace and light given and that same grace and light welcomed and lived.

I believe there is even more to the meaning of Jesus and the children; I perceive, and perhaps you do too, it is a kind of commentary, you might even say a revelation of what happens in our listening, reflecting on the Sacred Word – we receive more than a teaching, a word of encouragement or challenge – we receive the blessing, the touch of the Lord – we are anointed with the very presence of the Lord – it is an encounter of persons, One Divine and one human – a kind of sacrament.

In our childlike receptivity of listening, we carry away something of the Word and we bear in our depths the sacred Presence – the Presence of incomprehensible mercy, unspeakable love – in truth we become a living tabernacle – more sacred, and dear to the Lord than we can imagine.

There is a verse in Psalm 21 that applies to us – the Lord is addressed:
“You have granted your blessing to us forever.
You have made us rejoice at the joy of Your presence.”
– An extravagant blessing
– And a most precious gift of Presence
– And they are ours!