St. Paul’s – Brookings
Fr. Larry Ort
Job 1.1; 2.1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1.1-4; 2.5-12; Mark 10.2-16
October 4th holds significance for me: it was my mother’s birthday and it is the Feast of St. Francis. It is fitting that we should consider the Canticle of Brother Sun which was originally known as the Canticle of the Creatures. Most of the canticle is said to have been written in 1224 CE:
Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canticle_of_the_Sun)
I discovered another prayer of St. Francis with which I was unfamiliar. I hope it speaks to you as it does to me:
I hope you can join us this afternoon at 4:00 for the blessing of the animals – both stuffed and real!
Our lectionary readings for today contain two references to creation. First, In Hebrews 1.1-3a, we read, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (NRSV). Our Lord Jesus Christ was active in creation and he actively sustains all of creation.
The second reference to creation occurs in the passage from Mark 10. Once again, the Pharisees are attempting to entrap Jesus with the question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus very skillfully turned their impersonal question back upon them: “What did Moses command you?” The Pharisees replied, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” Indeed, the Mosaic law permitted a man who found something indecent (erwath dabar) or objectionable in his wife to write out a bill of divorce and hand it to her. The “something indecent” was rather vague and ultimately came to be employed for such minor things as not liking his wife’s cooking. Consequently, women and children were typically the injured parties in divorce (Dennis Hamm, http://liturgy.slu.edu/27OrdB100718/theword_hamm.html).
Jesus then told the Pharisees that Moses made this allowance because of their hardness of heart. He then reminded them of God’s intent, even citing the Genesis account of creation: “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, let no one separate” (Mark 10.2-9; NRSV).
In the house, the disciples further inquired about divorce. We should note under the Mosaic law, it was not permissible for a woman to divorce her husband. Under Roman law, both men and women could divorce. Jesus acknowledged this when he told his disciples, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10.11-12; NRSV).
Dennis Hamm, given the context, believes Jesus is defending women who were divorced for such trivial reasons and is affirming the marital relationship which is part of the “original blessing of creation” (Ibid). Immediately following the divorce narrative, Mark relates the disciples were discouraging people from bringing their children to Jesus. We then read: “But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter into it.’ Jesus then took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10.14-15; NRSV).
In this account, Mark is defending women and children, the weaker, if not the weakest, members of the social order – especially in the event of divorce.
Mark’s treatment of divorce may have recalled painful experiences for some of you. I cannot read these accounts without reflecting on the nature of my own divorce. Time does not now permit for an extended discussion of divorce. But let us note this. Jesus was reiterating God’s original intent for marriage. God’s original intent also included the idea that we would live in communion with God, and in peaceful coexistence with our neighbor. All so often, we fail to live as God intended us to live, but our God is a God of love and mercy who stands prepared to forgive us our failures when we confess them and ask for restoration. Jesus calls us to extend a loving ministry to those who are marginalized in our society – to women and children of divorce. Jesus calls us to remember God’s intent for us – to remember the original blessing extended through creation. And Jesus calls us to care for creation. Let us give thanks for all God’s creatures who share creation with us – especially those who enter our homes and worm their way into our hearts. A couple of days ago, I saw a cartoon which depicted St. Peter’s gate with two entrances. People were entering to the right, and the line was backed up some distance. Dogs and cats were entering to the left, and they were being granted full admission no questions asked! Stop and think about it!