The Impossible Life
From Living God's Word Year B by Father David M. Knight
Reflections and Actions for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Genesis 2:18 – 24; Hebrews 2:9 – 11; Mark 10:2 – 16
There is an old Latin proverb: Ad impossibile nemo tenetur – "No one is obliged to do the impossible." Since Jesus came this rule no longer applies.
Jesus came, not just to save us from sin – from falling below par in our human lives, but to save us from being confined to the level of human life altogether. He came to call us to live on the level of God. To be saved really means to share in the life of God and to live on the level of God in our thoughts, attitudes, decisions and actions. This is manifestly impossible. But Baptism commits us to it.
We find a good example of this in the Gospel. In answer to a question about divorce Jesus changes the nature of marriage! Until then a "good" marriage was one in which husband and wife made life satisfying for each other on earth. (See the description of the ideal wife in Proverbs 31:10 – 31. There is no description of the ideal husband; apparently even the Holy Spirit's imagination did not reach that far!) But Jesus establishes a principle which can only be explained if he is changing the goal, and therefore the nature, of marriage.
If divorce is never permitted, then it must be that a "good" marriage, one that is achieving its purpose and doing essentially what a marriage is meant to do, is not one in which the spouses are making life easier for each other, but one in which both spouses are learning to love. Jesus does not guarantee that any two people will always enjoy living together. But he does guarantee that any two people who work at it, using all the means he has provided reading Scripture and praying together, using Mass and the sacraments – can grow in love for each other. To accept the principle of no divorce, then, is to accept that the goal of marriage is to teach two people to love as God loves; that is, with total unselfishness, in total gift of self. Any marriage which is achieving this, even though it might be far from pleasant, is still a "good" marriage, because it is leading towards its goal: the perfection of love.
Jesus came, then, to make marriage impossible! The goal of Christian marriage is quite simply for both spouses to learn how to love like God, on the level of God – something so high that no human being could possibly stand at the altar and promise with any confidence or credibility at all to achieve it!
This makes Jesus a Savior who makes life impossible! He makes it impossible by changing the goal, the level of life to which we are called. But he makes it possible by giving us a share in his own life, giving us the power to live on the level of God, which is what the word grace means. A Christian marriage is possible if both spouses work at it with Jesus, guided by his words, strengthened by his sacraments, in response to his Spirit, living fully the life of grace.
To be saved, then, means, not just to be saved from sin, but to be lifted up to a whole new level of life: God's level; to accept a whole new framework of attitudes: God's attitudes; and to live by a whole new set of values and priorities: God's values, God's priorities. It means to be called to something beyond human power and at the same time to be enabled to do it. It means to be called to the "perfection of love" – not only in marriage, but in our social life, business life, political and civic involvement. We have to love like Christ in everything we do. That is the only goal we really have to accomplish (see John 15:12).
This gives new meaning to the word Savior. Jesus as Savior is someone, we need all the time, in everything we do. We need to be constantly united with him in mind and heart in order to succeed in doing anything in the way we are called to do it.
Reflecting on This Week's Gospels
Pray daily: Lord, you are the Teacher of life and of love. Give me the grace to believe in your way, to study it in your words, and to follow it to life to the full.
Monday: Luke 10:25 – 37. "You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind." How does this commandment tum every dying to self into an increase of life? What experiences of sacrificing yourself in the past have not enhanced your life? Did you do them out of love? What sacrifices have you made out of love? Did they bring you to life?
Tuesday: Luke 10:38 – 42. "Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things there is need of only one thing." What is the one thing necessary? Do you direct everything in your life toward this?
Wednesday: Luke 11:1 – 4. "And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us." How does dying to hurts and wrongs through forgiveness make us more alive?
Thursday: Luke 11:5 – 13. "Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you." Do you seek and knock as much as you ask? For what?
Friday: Luke 11:15 – 26. "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." To be "with" Christ, is it enough just to be not against him not to be doing anything wrong? What makes you positively with him at home? At work? In your social life? When are you "scattered"?
Saturday: Luke 11:27 – 28. A woman called out, "Blessed is the womb that bore you...." He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." What do you admire most in Mary? What do you do to imitate her?
Living This Week's Gospels
As Christian: Ask what does or would express daily in your life that you are with Christ, seeking the one thing necessary, making perfect love the goal of your life.
As Disciple: If a stranger looked at all the books and magazines in your house, what would appear to be your main interest in life? What would say you are a disciple of Christ?
As Prophet: Identify three concrete things you did during the past week which indicate that loving God and others is your highest priority in life. Rejoice in them.
As Priest: List in order of priority the five people you nurture or minister to the most. (Think of family, neighborhood, work, church, social life, city or country.)
As King: Think of one thing that people around you do that you would like to change. On one side of a piece of paper list all the ways you could bring about the change this using power or threats. On the other side list all the ways you could change them using love.