St Mark’s Gospel is a very carefully constructed piece of work, constructed to make a point, to teach coherently the nature of God and the nature of those God claims as God’s people. And the point for St Mark is a profound one. It is those whom God claims as God’s people is, simply enough, everyone.
Certainly, the teaching here is about marriage. But more than that is being said. The teaching here, it seems to me, is that that which God has brought any other of us is every bit as divinely ordained, every bit as infused with the spirit, as is the marriage relationship.
Time and time again in the Scripture, the image of a marriage feast is used as the clearest illustration of the coming together of all of God’s people in the fullness of the kingdom.
The point of Christ’s response, really, is that marriage, like everything else, has changed with him. Marriage could no longer be understood as a relationship between just two people. Rather, it was to be a covenant between two people and God. The binding force in a marriage then, is not the vows, nor even just the couples love for each other. The binding force is rather God’s own presence in that relationship. Christ didn’t say what the marriage ceremony has drawn together, nor even what human love has drawn together let no one separate.
But again, there is a great deal more being taught here than the sacramental nature of marriage. We are invited, every one of us, to carefully examine our own lives, to measure the extent to which we really do see ourselves as drawn together by God’s will with everyone who enters into our lives. Or do we also, too many times, in too many ways, separate what God has joined?
There is a very simple standard that each of us can use in making that measurement: To what extent is my life marked by adversarial relationships? To what extent do I describe myself, my life, in terms of me against them or me against him or her and so on?
In our society, in our Church, even in our families, over issues of race, of economics, of power, even of gender, too often we separate what God has joined together. This Gospel reading closes with the image of Christ telling his followers that they must become like children if they wish to enter the kingdom of God. Well, certainly one of the clearest lessons to be learned from the life, the mind of a child is really the lesson of the First Reading …. How utterly dependent we are on one another. To realise that, and to rejoice in it, is to honour indeed what God has joined together.