A teaching on marriage and human dignity
By the Archbishop’s Appeal
This is one of the most read scripture passages during the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage.
Bishop Robert Barron in the Word on Fire Bible has a teaching on Becoming One Flesh. Authentic biblical Christianity is not puritanical. The Creator God described in the book of Genesis made the entire panoply of things physical – planets, stars, the moon and sun, animals, fish and even things that creep and crawl upon the earth and found all of it good, even very good.
Accordingly, there is nothing perverse or morally questionable about bodies, sex, sexual longing, or the sexual act. In fact, it’s just the contrary.
When Jesus Himself is asked about marriage and sexuality, He harkens back to the book of Genesis and the story of creation (as we hear in the first reading). “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” (Mk 10:6–8). That last sentence is inescapably sexual. Plato might have been a puritan, and perhaps John Calvin too, but Jesus most certainly was not.
What is this “one fleshness”, this “two-in-oneness”? It means that every single facet, every segment of the husband’s and wife’s being is affected by the marriage union. Theirs is a blending of body, soul, spirit, emotions, psychology, hopes, and dreams. Theirs is a physical, spiritual, social, emotional, and psychological union.
Husband and wife are “one flesh.” The Bible does not say that about any other relationship.
In this life there is no other earthly relationship which is as close and as powerful as the relationship between a husband and a wife. In this life there is no other earthly relationship which can build up or tear down, to exalt or debase, to enable or hinder as does the relationship between a husband and a wife.
Human dignity arises out of the very creative action of God. “God said: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.’ God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:26, 27).
As such, “the divine image is present in every man” (Catechism of the Catholic Church) and each person is “endowed with ‘a spiritual and immortal’ soul” being “the only creature on earth that God willed for his own sake” (CCC, 1703). Endowed with intellect and freewill, mankind is “capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator” and is “capable of directing himself toward his true good” (CCC, 1704) in which he will find his perfection and happiness.
The Second Vatican Council teaches that mankind, “though made of body and soul, is a unity” and is therefore “obliged to regard his body as good and hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day” (Gaudium et Spes, 14).
The unity of spiritual and material is essential to the human creature whom God has created with such importance that mankind is placed in stewardship over God’s material creation. Mankind is made in the image of God and has been placed into the whole of creation as an icon of the divinity. Humanity has a divine origin and a divine end.
We are therefore created in His image. We are one with the Father, man and woman. If we treat each other with dignity and love, we are acting in accordance with His will. The joining of two, becoming one flesh, harkens to being one with the Father in unity and love.
This gospel reading, while so appropriate for marriage, reminds us of the love we need to have for one another. It is based on human dignity. The way we act, speak, think is so very important. We need to be cognisant of these things.
We need to act knowing that we are children of the Almighty, loving one another the way He loves us. We are, after all, “made in His image and likeness”.
Hold your mind, body and soul in this spiritual consciousness and you will find peace.
The gospel meditations for October are by members of the Archbishop’s Appeal. The Appeal supports the work of the Catholic Church through humble discipleship, obedience to God and universal love for mankind. The Appeal’s efforts are inspired by faith and guided by the desire to create a strong national culture of harmony and unity. As an agency and as individuals, we are committed to cultivating the moral and spiritual elements of every human being through prayer, service, and the communal will to improve.