Peace and grace to you all!
Between the first reading and the Gospel, the principal theme we are invited to ponder is matters of the heart.
In the first reading, God says that “it is not good for man to be alone.” So God makes a partner for the man knowing that in his heart, the man longs for someone to share everything in life with—thoughts and dreams, hopes and fears, labors, triumphs, joys, good things and bad. The only suitable partner for him is the woman and his heart will cling to her. Their union of love will be both physical and spiritual. It will be so strong and deep that the two of them will become one flesh—and so it is.
In the Gospel we get a sense that somehow things have gone awry. We know that when the Pharisees come to ask Jesus questions, they usually have a hidden agenda. This is one of those times. “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” Jesus defers to the Mosaic Law and in reply the Pharisees reply: “Moses permitted the husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” Jesus acknowledges his awareness of the law but with a telling comment: “because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.” Then, Jesus goes on to say that this was not God’s intention from the beginning of creation.
Hardness of heart, what does that mean? If a heart is hard, it cannot change, flex or expand. It cannot grow; it cannot swell with love, it cannot sink with sadness, it cannot be a spontaneous spring of joy, it cannot pour out its sorrow or confess its guilt. It is paralyzed. If a heart gets hard, it blocks things out that are good and life-giving. A hard heart results in hard treatment of oneself and others. A hard heart can block the path of hope for mercy and returning to God.
Relationships need hearts that can change, expand, grow, and forgive. We need hearts that can be renewed. Our hearts need God’s help to overcome hardness. We need to always turn our hearts to God.
Jesus uses the example of the children to show that a simple, carefree heart can bring the experience of God’s kingdom to our lives. The struggles and difficulties in life do not have to result in a heavy heart. We don’t have to become weighed down or become a weight to others. To his open heart the Savior invites all mankind to drink from the wellspring of salvation. Our way to this open hearted fountain of love is through prayer, humble faith, fasting, the sacraments of the Church and service to our neighbor—especially to those who are in pain. We must become flexible like the children in order to be renewed. Today is Respect Life Sunday, we pray that God’s love will shatter hard hearts and make them new with his love. May the Savior nourish your heart from the wellspring of his love! +++ Fr. Peter