The readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time relate this mystery: God’s creation of man in original justice, man’s loss of that justice, God’s restoration of man and man’s call to intimacy with God.
In the first reading, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.” God created animals to be man’s companion. Man named each animal, “but none proved to be a helper suited to the man.”
Then God created woman and brought her to the man, who 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.”
Man was really created in a state of grace called original justice. In the book of Hebrews, just prior to the selection on Sunday, we read “It was not to the angels that He subjected the order of things to come, of which we are speaking. Instead, someone has testified somewhere: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him? Or the son of man that you care for Him? You made Him for a little while lower than the angels; you crowned Him with glory and honor; subjecting all things under His feet.’”
Of course, man fell into sin. The second reading states: “He [Jesus] ‘for a little while’ was made ‘lower than the angels,’ that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
God’s love for fallen man was so great that Jesus lowered Himself below the angels so that He might take on our sins and raise us above the angels. By entering into our fallen condition, He enabled us to overcome sin and live in union with Him.
The Gospel is insightful in this way: When the Pharisees approach Jesus and tell him that Moses permitted the husband to give His wife a bill of divorce, Jesus said, “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.”
This is the Bridegroom talking. After man had separated himself from God, Jesus died on the cross and formed His bride, the Church. He gave His life for her in order that she might be united with Him in the Holy Trinity.
The same intimacy that Jesus has with the Father, and that Jesus has for His Bride the Church, is the intimacy He invites us to have for each other. All He needs of us for this intimacy to take us over is our permission, so that He can have a freedom in our relationships. He wants us to be receivers and sharers of His mercy, kindness and forgiveness. We first learn how to do this in our families.
It starts with the union of man and woman in matrimony. Matrimony makes man and woman one flesh, and the grace of God transforming hearts in daily sacrifices for each other keeps them one.
How can we ever grow in holiness without God surfacing our woundedness so that we ask for God’s mercy and healing? The more this becomes a daily experience, the deeper the joy of marriage and the deeper the joy of being close to God.
This then flows into the children, their relationship with each other and with their parents. This doesn’t happen unless the parents make it intentional. From their experience of relating to each other, parents are well equipped to teach their children how to forgive each other and how to make sacrifices for the sake of family unity.
To make this possible, Jesus lowered Himself below the angels so that we would be lifted up in glory, the glory of the intimacy of the Most Holy Trinity. We can’t make this intimacy happen, but we can allow Jesus to change our hearts to bring it about.
Changing our hearts requires many sacrifices and much suffering, but Jesus is our companion in every sacrifice and in everything we suffer. Jesus is with us to help us and to encourage us. He has experienced the glory to which He is lovingly leading us. He will help us to turn hurtful people into companions in glory.
Jesus kept His eyes on His Father, and He is encouraging us to keep our eyes on Jesus: “For the sake of the joy that lay before Him He endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God.”
So the next time when you feel all alone in your suffering, raise your eyes and see Him at the right hand of the Father, cheering you on. We are on the path to glory, and Jesus knows how to get us there.
Jesus is greater than our weaknesses and our heartaches. The people He helped us to forgive will be our companions in eternal glory.