First Reading: Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63
The word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations.
Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem:
By origin and birth you are of the land of Canaan;
your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.
As for your birth, the day you were born your navel cord was not cut;
you were neither washed with water nor anointed,
nor were you rubbed with salt, nor swathed in swaddling clothes.
No one looked on you with pity or compassion
to do any of these things for you.
Rather, you were thrown out on the ground as something loathsome,
the day you were born.
Then I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood.
I said to you: Live in your blood and grow like a plant in the field.
You grew and developed, you came to the age of puberty;
your breasts were formed, your hair had grown,
but you were still stark naked.
Again I passed by you and saw that you were now old enough for love.
So I spread the corner of my cloak over you to cover your nakedness;
I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you;
you became mine, says the Lord GOD.
Then I bathed you with water, washed away your blood,
and anointed you with oil.
I clothed you with an embroidered gown,
put sandals of fine leather on your feet;
I gave you a fine linen sash and silk robes to wear.
I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms,
a necklace about your neck, a ring in your nose,
pendants in your ears, and a glorious diadem upon your head.
Thus you were adorned with gold and silver;
your garments were of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth.
Fine flour, honey, and oil were your food.
You were exceedingly beautiful, with the dignity of a queen.
You were renowned among the nations for your beauty, perfect as it was,
because of my splendor which I had bestowed on you,
says the Lord GOD.
But you were captivated by your own beauty,
you used your renown to make yourself a harlot,
and you lavished your harlotry on every passer-by,
whose own you became.
Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl,
and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you,
that you may remember and be covered with confusion,
and that you may be utterly silenced for shame
when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord GOD.
Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6
R. (1c) You have turned from your anger.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You have turned from your anger.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You have turned from your anger.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You have turned from your anger.
Gospel: Matthew 19:3-12
Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”
He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator made them male and female and said,
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, man must not separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command
that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?”
He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”
His disciples said to him,
“If that is the case of a man with his wife,
it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept this word,
but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so;
some, because they were made so by others;
some, because they have renounced marriage
for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
Have you ever seen what happens to an orange or grapefruit after it falls off the tree? First, it stops growing, of course. Next, it gets a little soft and mushy and wilts a bit. Finally, it turns really really really hard. As hard as a rock. It actually changes form and you cannot get into the good stuff inside. If you hit it with a hammer or run over it with your car, it actually crumbles. The good stuff inside is gone.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus explains that the Israelites were allowed to divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. The Israelites did quite a few things differently before Jesus came. Now Jesus was holding them to a higher standard. The very laws and customs of their culture were turned on their heads.
Jesus recognized that it was a big change and He responded to their question of whether single life was preferable to married life with the answer of for some, yes.
We are not all called to follow the same path in this life. We are, however, all called to discern God’s will for our lives. His will is far more delightful than anything we could dream of ourselves, because His will is for us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. There is nothing better than that. This road on which we travel prepares us for that eternal life. For some that will be a vocation of marriage, for others it will be a vocation of single life, and for others still, it will be a vocation to the religious life.
Not too long ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who is having some troubles in her marriage. She said that her heart was hardened. It made her incapable of moving forward until she opened that heart to Jesus to repair.
Regardless of our calling, a hardened heart can befall any of us. When our hearts are hardened, a relationship is impossible. Coworkers, children, spouses, friends and family alike, challenge us to greatness by challenging us in our everyday interactions. We can respond with a hardened heart, or we can respond as Jesus not only taught us, but commanded us.
We are to love one another.
And we aren’t alone. Our hearts are not destined to wilt and harden like fruit forgotten on the ground. He showed us ultimate love when He died for our sins. As His disciples, we are asked to show others love. As long as our hearts are actively loving those around us, they will refrain from hardening.
Love in action is the preventative measure against hardened hearts. Jesus’s love for us was a sacrifice and our love for others can be made up of small sacrifices too. Loving isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.
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Where in your life do you find your heart hardening? What can you do to show love today where it is most difficult? Ask Jesus to soften your heart today and open you up to love.
MaryRuth Hackett is a full-time wife and mother doing her best to teach her four children to love God and country. You can find out more about her here.