Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (27th in Ordinary)

The Gospel reading assigned to this week is Jesus’ teaching on divorce.  As always, it is helpful to understand the context in which Jesus was speaking.  In Jesus’ time, the Jewish law of divorce was based on Moses teaching in Deuteronomy.  This could be interpreted as a man was able to divorce his wife (not the other way round) for trivial things.  As a result, women were sometimes treated as ‘objects’ that could be disposed of if they did not please the man.  A further consequence of this was that many Jewish girls were reluctant to get married as they had little security.  Jesus, in effect, says this is all wrong.  He replaces this loose interpretation, by some, of the law of Moses by highlighting the sanctity of marriage.  Jesus goes back to the creation story to say that marriage was part of God’s original plan and designed to be permanent.  It was a physical AND SPIRITUAL union which included family responsibilities.  As such, no man-made laws should allow it to be easily dispensed with.  Seen in this light, Jesus’ teaching is probably best interpreted as supporting both women and family life at a time when both were vulnerable to abuse.

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