Meditation of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa: XXVII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

By: Cover photo: Phillip Medhurst - Published: October 01 Fri, 2021

Meditation of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa: XXVII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B Available in the following languages:

October 3, 2021

XXVII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Let us make some preliminary remarks to better understand today’s Gospel passage.

Jesus, as we know, is on the way to Jerusalem, where He will give His life on the Cross for the salvation of all. He will not do this because a law imposes it on Him, because no law can ask you to die for others. Only love can ask it, and only by love will Jesus give His life.

In today’s text, some Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful to dismiss one’s wife (Mk 10:2). In reality, the question in itself is flawed because it tells a distorted way of using the law, a way that uses the law to justify one’s egoism, to not feel guilty. As if obeying a law was enough for a full life.

Jesus responds by restoring proper meaning and dignity to everything, namely, that vocation that is from the beginning (But from the beginning of creation He made them male and female – 10:6) and that repositions everything in a unified path of following. 

And He does this first of all to the Law, which Moses, in this case, granted to man because of his hardness of heart (But from the beginning of creation He made them male and female – 10:5): it was, that is, a law given to persons unable to love, so that their hardness would not do too much damage. The law on dismissal was, therefore, intended to check the power of the man over the woman, so that it was not absolutely arbitrary. Whoever wanted to dismiss his wife, had to do it publicly, taking responsibility for it, and had to have valid reasons for doing so. But we understand that this cannot be the all in a relationship of love between man and woman: this is only the minimum.

And indeed, Jesus goes a step further, and returns to the foundation of marriage according to the plan of God: because it is not enough to refer to what a law does or does not allow to understand the nature of a couple’s love. We must go back to what is written in our heart, in our DNA from the beginning; to our original vocation. There, it is written that love means uniting oneself to another and becoming one thing with the other (“... and the two shall become one flesh” 10:7-8): and when one really, freely, has been united, how can one separate?

When one has really left one’s past to do a new thing, how can one turn back?

So, it’s not a matter of law, but of one’s profound vocation, without which one cannot be him/herself.

Then, it will be to think not so much when it’s possible to dismiss one’s wife, but how it’s possible to let the heart be transformed, so that it is no longer a hard heart, unable to love.

And it’s interesting that, as in the passages read on recent Sundays, here also it’s a question of power, of dominion: the hardened heart belongs to one who thinks he can exercise a power over the life of the other without having really committed themselves to love the other. But this is not in the original plan of God for man.

But there is a further step, which Jesus no longer explains openly, in the presence of all, but in private, to His disciples who ask Him again about this subject (Mk 10:10). And it’s that the subject in question is no longer man alone, as if woman could not also be taken into consideration: she, exactly like the man, must be involved because the new creation, the new and binding path of love proposed by Jesus cannot be realized without the full input of the freedom of both, man and woman: it’s not possible to become one without this new awareness.

Love according to the logic of the kingdom, is therefore the exact opposite of every form of domination and power, and, on the contrary, is understood in the giving of life, in putting oneself at the service of the other: in this way the human is fulfilled, and thus the Kingdom is really at hand.

Part two of today’s passage (Mk 10:13-16) can be read in the light of the same logic: just as there is no longer any difference in dignity between man and woman, there is at the same time no difference between great and small, between adults and children.

Yet again, the disciples allow themselves an arbitrary power, pushing away the children that were brought to Jesus. And Jesus once more turns the parties upside down: those will enter the Kingdom who do not allow themselves to control others, who exercise a power feeling superior, but who are devoid of rights, who have neither prestige nor merit, who accept life as pure gift.

Jesus is angry (Mk 10:14) with the disciples, who remain deaf to the reproach already addressed to them after the second announcement of the passion (Mk 9:30-32), and they demonstrate that they want to continue believing that the following such a celebrated master cannot but guarantee them earthly greatness.

The path of the disciples’ conversion is still long, and the misunderstanding will come back again in this chapter, with the question of James and John (Mk 10:35 ff) of sitting on the right and on the left of Jesus.

Before the disciples, Jesus makes a highly significant gesture, such as the embrace with which he holds children to himself, blessing them (Mk 10:16): instead of their delusions of greatness, Jesus proposes instead a gesture of tenderness. To the disciples, and today to us, to understand which of these two ways of life is more true and fruitful.

+ Pierbattista