First Reading: Joshua 24:1-13
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: In times past your fathers, down to Terah, father of Abraham and Nahor, dwelt beyond the River and served other gods. But I brought your father Abraham from the region beyond the River and led him through the entire land of Canaan. I made his descendants numerous, and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I assigned the mountain region of Seir in which to settle, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. “Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and smote Egypt with the prodigies which I wrought in her midst. Afterward I led you out of Egypt, and when you reached the sea, the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Red Sea with chariots and horsemen. Because they cried out to the LORD, he put darkness between your people and the Egyptians, upon whom he brought the sea so that it engulfed them. After you witnessed what I did to Egypt, and dwelt a long time in the desert, I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I delivered them into your power. You took possession of their land, and I destroyed them, the two kings of the Amorites, before you. Then Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab, prepared to war against Israel. He summoned Balaam, son of Beor, to curse you; but I would not listen to Balaam. On the contrary, he had to bless you, and I saved you from him. Once you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, the men of Jericho fought against you, but I delivered them also into your power. And I sent the hornets ahead of you that drove them (the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites) out of your way; it was not your sword or your bow. “I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 136:1-3, 16-18, 21-22 & 24
His mercy endures forever. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever; Give thanks to the God of gods, for his mercy endures forever; Give thanks to the LORD of lords, for his mercy endures forever. Who led his people through the wilderness, for his mercy endures forever; Who smote great kings, for his mercy endures forever; And slew powerful kings, for his mercy endures forever. And made their land a heritage, for his mercy endures forever; The heritage of Israel his servant, for his mercy endures forever; And freed us from our foes, for his mercy endures forever.
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.”
Today’s Gospel is one that speaks to how difficult the life of the Gospel can be to live.
It is hard to accept that Jesus is telling us in this passage that divorce is not allowed and that not everyone is called to marriage. And yet, these are Christ’s very words, and they, as always, impart to us grace and love. But it is so hard for us to hear “no” to something and yet still hear love, because we are living in a world that equates love to being cheered and supported when doing whatever you want to the fullest extent possible. We have no understanding that love can mean boundaries, parameters, and duties. We have lost the understanding of love that means to will the good of the other—the true good of the other.
In today’s Gospel we come face to face with the fact that Christ’s words ask us to live our life in a certain way. The Gospel asks of us in difficult ways because the Gospel is meant to transform our lives. To take us out of sin and into grace and the life of Christ means that we have to choose to live our lives according to Christ’s words and commands.
That’s not to say that choosing to live a life of faith in Christ’s words, faith in the Gospel, comes easily to us all the time. It can be painfully difficult to accept Christ’s words when we’re in relationships that are complicated and difficult. Sometimes we can only take small steps out in grace in order to follow Christ’s words. And we have to trust in God that our small acts of faith, each choice we make for the Gospel, will culminate in an entire life lived for the Gospel. Christ gives us these instructions to help us accept His love and to live in His love, both in this world and ultimately in the next. We need to remind ourselves that it is so worth it to put our faith in Christ, even when it’s the most difficult.
Living the Gospel isn’t easy. Can I make small changes in my life to better live out Christ’s teachings? Can I help those around me make those choices as well? Lord, give us the strength to seek Your will in all areas of our lives.
Christy Isinger is the mom to five lovely, loud children living in the Canadian wilds. You can find out more about her here.