The Sunday Project
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time |
By Stephen Eugene Pollmann
The LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." So the LORD God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.
So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called 'woman, ' for out of 'her man’ this one has been taken." That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.
Brothers and sisters: He "for a little while" was made "lower than the angels, " that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering. He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers.”
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him. He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" They replied, "Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
Today’s readings are touchy: in our first reading from Genesis, we read about the mythical creation of man and woman and their union as “one flesh” — this is compounded by Jesus’s own allusion back to the story of creation as he responds to the questioning of the Pharisees. Many a queer Catholic are likely to be familiar with these readings — we hear them from apologists who try to defend the Church or convince us our love is less than, or in our own research from popes and saints, whose theologies attempt to define our experiences as embodied persons through a purely heteronormative lens.
The most conservative reading, of course, is to assert that Jesus in his role as creator is reaffirming the gender binary and the exclusivity of male-female love. Interestingly enough, the reading from Genesis provides us with enough footing to question the dominant narrative described in most Catholic teaching. Rather than immediately realizing a “physically complimentary” partner for Adam in forming a woman, our loving God’s primary concern is Adam’s loneliness, and the myth-like storytelling that follows suggests the espousal of a more “trial and error” type of approach. As queer Catholics, we can find space for ourselves in this narrative, as our sexual orientations, as well as our gender identities or expressions, are frequently not immediately available to us early in our lives. Where this narrative can be improved, of course, is in parting from the myth that ultimately each of us should identify ourselves according to the gender binary and pick a partner on the opposite end of that very limited spectrum. Human sexuality and gender expression is so vast, and yet the essence of the story of creation is simple and profound in it’s ability to resonate with so many people: our God has created us in His image and with innate curiosity that encourages us to participate in the act of creation, whether that’s by ensuring our bodies affirm our gender identities, or by creating families regardless of our sexual orientation. This is the message that transcends the exclusionary history of the Church, and ultimately the message I believe Jesus affirms in addressing the concerns of the Pharisees.