Rev. Bev’s Homily for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time with Rev. Judy’s Commentary
It is my pleasure to present Rev. Bev Bingle’s Homily for this Sunday. I will simply echo Rev. Bev in saying that Jesus is capturing the spirit of the law which is the spirit of love and justice.
Concerning divorce the Eastern Aramaic text is enlightening: “It has been said that whoever divorces his wife must give her divorce papers. But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife,except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is separated but not divorced commits adultery.” (Lamsa Translation of The Peshitta). Errico in Let There Be Light makes the point that Jesus was actually a champion for women in this text-women could be divorced for no good reason so Jesus is giving a good reason for divorce. Moreover he is saying that just leaving a wife in a state of limbo without a divorce is even worse as it causes a man to commit adultery. He is not buying into the culture that uses women as property to be discarded. He is teaching men to be more responsible in their relations with women, especially those to whom they are married. Divorce only for a good reason and don’t just put her out and leave her in limbo. I am heartened by this understanding and sad that the Church,historically did not understand it for what it was-an assertion of the human rights of women. This is a saying conveying God’s love for women as well as men, thanks be to God, and to Jesus the Christ for showing us a new way of being and relating to one another-beyond the understanding of his times.
Rev. Judy Lee
Here is Rev. Beverly Bingle’s fine Homily:
Matthew’s gospel was written down between 80 and 90 A.D.–more than 50
years after Jesus’ life and ministry. The disciples are gone–Peter
and Paul have been gone 20 years. Jerusalem has been leveled for 15
years Jewish historian Josephus is writing the “Antiquities.” The
Jewish community is in diaspora, scattered. Imagine this fledgling
community gathered in 85 A.D. They are Jewish. And they follow the
Way of Jesus of Nazareth. This community is recalling Matthew’s
teachings about Jesus of Nazareth and reflecting on how they can best
live the Way he taught. They are remembering the message. They are
gathering for Eucharist.
The community looks at what has happened since Jesus–they try to read
the signs of the times. So they ask themselves how the teachings of
Jesus of Nazareth fit the reality of their lives. As Jews, they know
that Jesus was Jewish, never anything but Jewish. As Jews, they know
also that Jesus was a reformer. As Jews, they know that Rabbi ben
Zaccai is pulling together the canon of Hebrew scriptures. As
Christians, they recall Jesus’ preaching the spirit of the law–to go
beyond legalistic adherence to the Torah’s 613 rules, to live in the
kin-dom of God, the freedom and joy of the spirit, the here-and-now
So the author of today’s gospel constructs the Sermon on the Mount to
record how the community is trying to follow the Mosaic law in
diaspora. Just as Jesus read the signs of the times and taught in
ethical continuity with Judaism, so does the community of Matthew.
And so must we.
We hear this passage today and face the same situation as our
ancestors in faith did back in 85 A.D. We ask: what’s going on in
our world? What is the message that Matthew’s community was applying
to that ancient time? How are we to apply that message to our times?
How are we to remain true to the vision and mission of Jesus?
The passage about divorce challenges us. Matthew has Jesus saying
that “everyone who divorces–except because of adultery–forces the
spouse to commit adultery. Those who marry the divorced also commit
adultery.” Scripture scholars agree that the earliest surviving
documents–the Q document, Mark, and first Corinthians–show that Jesus
said something about divorce. The scholars also agree that these are
not Jesus’ words, that the early Christians were in conflict about
what it was that he said.
We understand that our times are different from Matthew’s: marriages
are not arranged by families for economic gain; dowries and bride
prices no longer change hands. As we discern the meaning of today’s
Gospel for our times, it’s significant that the passage that follows
today’s reading contains Jesus’ command to “love your enemies,” which
scholars agree was definitely spoken by Jesus. They agree that the
pattern of today’s gospel passage reflects Jesus’ message in that he
consistently called the disciples to a higher standard than simply
following the letter of the law; they were to work at living the
spirit of the law. And the spirit of the law, definitively, is love.
Jesus has got to like the German bishops, who have made public their
responses to Pope Francis’ call for input into the upcoming Synod on
the family. The German people, these bishops say, do not condemn
divorced people. They do not believe they should be barred from the
sacraments. They believe they were really married, and that the
divorce does not make the marriage null. They see it as a marriage
that failed, not as a marriage that never was.
Jesus has got to like our new Pope Francis,
with his emphasis on pastoral concern, his attention to people instead
of rules. We can hope and pray that Jesus’ message about the spirit
of the law–the spirit of love–comes through loud and clear when the
bishops gather this fall, and that our institutional Church will begin
to heal the damage done to divorced couples in the name of Church.
As for us here at Holy Spirit, we are called to continue to welcome
everyone to the table, no exceptions. We are called to embrace
everyone we meet–whether it’s the homeless at the soup kitchen or the
Gothic teen or the close-minded racist. We are called to befriend the
remarried divorced couple, the worker who lost his job, and the
student who doesn’t make it into college. In our times we see that it
is not a sin to divorce when the marriage does not work out. We see
that it is not a sin to follow a vocation to marry once again. We are
called to understanding and compassion. We are called to be generous
in our love for every one of God’s people.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Mass at 2086 Brookdale (Interfaith Chapel):
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 9 a.m.
Mass at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Rev. Bev Bingle, Pastor