It Is Not Good That The Man Should Be Alone

A Reflection for 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B).
Genesis 2:18-24 – Hebrews 2:9-11 – Mark 10:2-16.

It is not good that the man should be alone (Gen 2:18). A song that has inspired me greatly since I arrived in Scotland is “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. It was written for the 1945 musical ‘Carousel’, was popularised by Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1963, and is the anthem of several top-flight football clubs. The lyrics capture the importance of not being alone, of always walking with each other through the storms, stages and experiences of life, of always nurturing that hope and desire of not being isolated, of having each other, and – above all – of having God.

At the beginning of the 1st reading, we hear the statement from God that It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate. God, who made us in His image (Gen 1:27), made us in such a way that we need each other, and we need Him in order for us to be complete and whole and fulfilled. Adam needed companionship, and so God created Eve (her name means ‘lifegiver’) and brought her to Adam. That story presents us with the sacredness of marriage and holy matrimony, ‘matrimony’ being ‘motherhood’.

In the Gospel reading, the Pharisees (who viewed Jesus’ teachings as revolutionary) put the question to Him about the legality of divorce as given to the people of God in the context of the Mosaic Law. Jesus noted that Moses presented them with the law of divorce because they were so ‘unteachable’ (v.5) in the sense that they were obstinately doing their own will over against God’s, trying always to bend God’s law to accommodate them. Divorce, being the severance of a matrimonial union, became a means of reintroducing the unhappy state of being alone, which God remedied first and foremost after Creation. What can we understand from the teaching that It is not good that the man should be alone? Today’s reflection is essential for understanding the Sacrament of Marriage and the need for community to nourish our
spiritual life.

Regarding marriage, Jesus left us in no doubt that marriage is a desirable state of life, created by God to be a lifelong union between one man and one woman united by a pledge of love and loyalty to each other, the pledge having been made in the presence of God. Their union in marriage is an indissoluble union, a union in which they become one flesh (Mk 10:8). So when a couple marries, there is no power on earth, short of death (cf. 1Cor 7:39), that can liberate them from the marriage bond while their spouse is alive: What God has united, man must not divide (Mk 10:9) We are called to reflect upon the dignity of marriage and on the permanence of the sacramental marriage commitment, which opposes the worldly view that marriage need not be a life-long commitment.

It is not good that the man should be alone. Life can be described as a journey, and marriage involves two people making that journey together in partnership and companionship. It is therefore imperative for husband and wife to create a good marriage. In marriage, it is the little things that are important, things like speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways, of having the capacity to forgive and forget and purposely never going to sleep angry (Eph 4:26). No married couple can stand together against the pressures of the world unless their union is based on love (1Cor 13:4f). Love in all its aspects is what cements and binds that relationship together for life (Col 3:14). Love involves living together in hope and trust down the years through good times and bad times. Love can all too easily be reneged upon because of human frailty, so it has to be nurtured and cultivated to prevent it from fading or being extinguished. Spouses have to be on guard against being self-centred and/or stubborn. To safeguard love in the marital relationship, it is necessary for both parties to avoid becoming over-preoccupied with business and/or social interests. The solemn pledge, made at the altar of God, to “love each other for better or for worse” should not trip lightly off the tongue.

From the spiritual point of view, “being alone” (as understood from the 1st reading) can mean “walking without God”. It is not good that anyone should walk without God. We need God every moment of our lives (Ps 91:1f)! When we find ourselves in sin or fail to love God and our neighbour, we isolate ourselves spiritually. We actively need God’s grace to remain in communion with Him and with His people. This grace is what we have in Jesus Christ, Whose purpose in coming to us was to bring a great many of God’s sons into glory (Heb 2:10). God allowed Him to experience death for all mankind (v.9), and so, in His body, He has broken our hostilities, our aloneness plus our separation from God and from one another in spirit. In Jesus Christ, we are healed of our ‘unteachability’, of our ‘hardness of heart’, the symptoms of which are disunity, rancour, envy, quarrelling and disharmony.

In light of the above, I pray that each and every one of us may continue to grow in unity, faith and love with each other, and to grow in respect and acknowledgement of our diversities, both in the family, in wider society and in our personal relationship with God. Amen. God bless you.