Pastoral Sharings: "Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS  
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for October 4, 2015 

In this Sunday’s Gospel we are presented with the 
essential elements of Christ’s teaching on marriage. He 
stresses that this unique union is a sign of the Kingdom of 
God and therefore is an eternal sacrament which cannot 
be broken by divorce.

This is one of the most difficult of the teachings of Christ and is a question that all the Christian Churches have had to wrestle with over the centuries. The Protestant Churches have in recent years accommodated themselves to the reality of divorce and they have mostly accepted the possibility of divorced members remarrying in Church.

The Orthodox Churches have approached this question in a slightly different way. If there is an irretrievable breakdown in marriage the Orthodox will permit a second marriage in Church but this has a penitential character and is not generally regarded as a full sacramental marriage, however the parties are permitted to receive Holy Communion.

The only problem with this is that some people come back even for a third marriage, the second one also having broken down.

In the Catholic Church, however, we take quite a different approach and try to remain as faithful as we can to the teaching of Christ. In the case of a permanent breakdown of marriage what we do is examine that marriage to see if all the essential elements of the Sacrament of Matrimony were present.

If one of these essential conditions is found to be lacking then that marriage is declared null, meaning that it was never a true marriage in the eyes of God and the parties are then free to contract a new sacramental marriage.

Some of the conditions that need to be met to ensure that a marriage is truly valid are the following. It must be the completely free choice of the couple, which means that neither can be coerced into the marriage under pressure from a parent or anyone else. There must also be true consent and both parties must be sufficiently mature and able to freely give that consent.

There must be no deception involved; so for example if one party concealed alcoholism or drug addiction this would not meet the conditions for a valid marriage. The marriage also must take place in a Church before a priest with all the necessary permissions having been obtained beforehand.

The parties must also be free to marry, so if one partner has already been married then the new marriage can be declared null. There are other requirements such as consummation, openness to children and several more.

When an annulment is applied for the marriage in question is examined by a Church Tribunal which takes evidence and studies the matter very closely. If it is satisfied that one of the essential elements of marriage is missing it will issue a Decree of Nullity and the parties will be able to enter into a new marriage should they so wish.

You will have heard through the media that Pope Francis has recently relaxed the rules for the granting of annulments. It is true that he has made some changes but these are more procedural in nature and do not affect any of the reasons why an annulment might be granted.

The first change is that there is no automatic appeal. In the past once an annulment was granted it had to be automatically appealed to the Tribunal of a neighboring Diocese for confirmation of the judgement and this necessarily lengthened the process. This is no longer the case and once an annulment is granted it takes effect immediately without any appeal.

Another change is that of the appropriate Tribunal to hear the case. This was formerly the one in the Diocese where the marriage took place but now it is the Diocese where the petitioner lives.

This will help us greatly here in London where people from many different countries are living. It is no longer necessary to have the marriage examined by the Tribunal in one’s homeland but instead the whole thing can be dealt with here by our own Diocese.

One other small change is that where no proper tribunal has been set up the Bishop himself can shorten things by hearing the case or assign this duty to a qualified priest. This is something which will help those living in developing countries but is not very relevant for our situation.

What the Catholic Church is attempting to do therefore is to see whether the first marriage was a true one in the eyes of God. If not, then the marriage can be annulled and the parties are free to marry again. This is our way of remaining faithful to the demands of Christ while coping with the reality of marriage breakdown in the modern world.

Of course, after examination a number of these broken marriages might be judged to have been truly valid. This would leave those involved no further forward and they may end up in a new marriage not recognized by the Church and therefore barred from receiving Holy Communion.

While this is regrettable it should not mean any definitive separation from the Church but simply reflect the unfortunate consequences resulting from the breakdown of a marriage. In these circumstances the person involved should not receive Holy Communion but they should still come to mass and at the time of Communion come for a blessing.

There is also something called Spiritual Communion which might help us here. When we are prevented from receiving Holy Communion for whatever reason we can during mass still pray to God saying to him that we are sorry for all our sins and that although we are unable to receive Holy Communion we desire to be completely united to God and offer him our whole heart and soul. This act of Spiritual Communion can be very consoling.

Those who find themselves in irregular marriages or in other difficult situations which may lead them to feel separated from the Church should realize that while they may feel cut off and may actually be prevented from going to Holy Communion they should understand that they are still a full member of the Church and deeply loved by God.

God loves us very deeply whatever our situation. When we have made mistakes in life God does not love us any less but actually he loves and treasures us all the more. If we have this deep realization in our hearts we will, despite all our difficulties, understand that we are deeply cherished children of God.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
October 4, 2015

Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:

The Sacrament of Matrimony

Recently, I attended a meeting about Catholic marriage that began by noting that over the last seven years there has been a significant decline in Catholic marriages, almost by 25%.  Since the Catholic population keeps growing, it is obvious that either many people are not aware of the obligation to get married in the Catholic Church or the concept of a Catholic marriage does not carry significant meaning in their lives. With the continual attack on marriage and the family by our society, and in light of the readings for this Sunday, I thought that this would be a good time to consider this sacrament.


Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 2–16

Gospel Summary

Some Pharisees, wanting to involve Jesus in current controversies about divorce, ask him whether it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. Jesus replies that only because of the hardness of the human heart, Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss his wife. At the beginning, however, God created humans, male and female, to be joined together as one in marriage. Jesus says that what God has joined together, a man cannot separate by writing a bill of divorce. And if he attempts to do so and marries another woman after dismissing his wife, he commits adultery.


Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time,

Year B—October 4, 2015

The Pharisees ask Jesus a question about divorce. Why did He answer their question with one of His own?

Gospel (Read Mk 10:2-16)

In Mk 10:1, we read that Jesus “went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to Him again.” This tells us that Jesus left the northern territory of Galilee and returned to the area near Jerusalem and the Jordan River. “Beyond the Jordan” was a region also called “Perea.” It was governed by Herod Antipas and was the location of John the Baptist’s ministry. Knowing this helps us understand why the Pharisees asked Jesus a question about divorce to “test” Him. Recall that when John the Baptist preached against the divorces that Herod and his wife, Herodias, had obtained in order to leave their spouses and marry each other, he wound up in jail. The Pharisees were hoping the same thing could happen to Jesus if He took a similar stand. They were waiting for the trap to spring shut.


The meaning of Creation

1. Who made us?
    God made us.
    In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. (Genesis 1:1)

2. Who is God?
    God is the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect, who made all things and 
    keeps them in existence.
    In him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

3. Why did God make us?
    God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His
    everlasting happiness in heaven.
    Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man,
    what things God has prepared for those who love him. (I Corinthians 2:9)


Practical Steps to Love Jesus More Deeply

We live in difficult times as Catholics. Quite possibly it has always been this way. The culture sends messages to us that are very harmful to our spiritual life. If we have become blind to this truth, it is likely that we are pursuing success as defined by the secular world instead of pursuing the holiness God has called us to live.

Here is how the world measures success:


Pope Francis to New York City: Jesus still walks our streets. Tell everyone!

Pope Francis on Friday had a brief, but urgent, reminder for the Catholics of New York City. They must proclaim the joy of God and remember to care for all those who go unnoticed in their metropolis, because they have seen the “great light” of Jesus Christ.

“Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope,” the Pope said during his homily at Mass at Madison Square Garden Sept. 25.


Answer God’s Call Now, For You Never Know When He’ll Call Again

We never know when we’ll be called.

That’s the message that rang true in my heart as I meditated on Pope Francis’ homily during his private Mass with bishops, clergy, and religious at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

The Holy Father cited the example of St. Katherine Drexel’s calling by Pope Leo XIII. He related the story of Katherine approaching the elderly Pope and expressing her concern about the needs of the missions.

Pope Leo’s wise and thoughtful response to St. Katherine was, “And what about you? What are you going to do?”

Those words made Katherine realize that she was being called to do her part, changed her life and set her on the road to sanctity.

But, it’s not only the canonized saints who are called to do their part. It’s you and me as well.


The Cross, Our Only Hope

While I was a student at the University of Notre Dame, I had the opportunity to get to know the men in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Under the patronage of Our Lady of Sorrows, the motto of the congregation is, “Ave crux, spes unica,” which translates to, “Hail, the cross – our only hope.”

As a college student, I was captivated by that rallying cry. It is a call to arms that defies the logic of the world we live in. Not only does it declare the cross to be a cause for hope, but it claims it to be our “only hope.” (And no, this is not an allusion to Star Wars, my fellow fans.)


Are You Headed to Heaven or Hell?

There is a troubling phenomenon noted by several Doctors of the Church regarding the common waning of spiritual development after a period of progress. It often happens after a fervent soul makes notable gains against habitual mortal and then venial sin. It can also happen on the back side of any virtue-based victory.

The soul becomes satisfied with itself and then reaches for the cruise control button to relax at a pace that seems “reasonable.” Usually this “reasonable” pace is an easy one and though, at first glance, it is perceived as a continued commitment to progress, it may mark the beginning of a fall.


The Angels and the Spiritual Life

The assistance of the angels that is given to the soul at Baptism is to continue throughout the whole course of its life. Not even sins can suppress it. They can only sadden the angel of the soul. But angels do not merely protect the soul against the attacks of the Devil; they also try to make it progress in the spiritual life. This is the first aspect under which the spiritual life appears in relation with the angels. On the other hand, following a teaching that has its source in the Gospel itself, the spiritual life appears as an imita­tion of the life of the angels and a participation in their life.


A Grief Remembered

I have a memory of  the day my grandfather died in 1962. My father came home from the hospital where my grandfather was being treated for what we thought was a relatively minor ailment but he unexpectedly died.

I was waiting at my grandfather’s house with other family members when my dad came in the door. In his typical WASP way he told us that Granddad died then went to the basement of the house. We were stunned!


Ten Reasons to Pray the Rosary

Motivation is the key to carrying out any worthy enterprise. Great men and great women have clear goals and strong motivations. They know what they want and they have a clear plan before their eyes.

CEO’s in successful companies know what they want, have goals, deadlines, and concrete steps to attain those goals. Professional athletes have a determined determination to win.  They study their opponents weak points, capitalize on their own strengths and play for victory.  Therefore, to attain to any goal there must be a clear plan and strong motivations.

Where is Christ in All These?

I received a phone call during Holy Week two years ago from a lay Catholic group in Manila inviting me to give them a talk on the Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ on GoodFriday of that Lenten season. I told the host that it was an honor to give this talk and I would gladly do it. His next words left me speechless, “Father, we have this talk every Good Friday and we usually invite a particular bishop to give the talk, we pay all his travel and lodging expenses, and give him a stipend for the talk. We cannot afford all that this year so we are inviting you instead.” Zing! I never knew I had the reputation of being the cheap priest in town. I had great peace as I gave this talk to this group. But I cannot help but chuckle whenever I recall this conversation. God can even use humor to remind us of very important lessons in life.


Three Virtues For A Happier Family Life and Better Relationship with God

Pope Francis’ visit for the World Meeting of Families has sort of had me sitting at home thinking how I can better serve my husband, my family, and the friends and families nearest to us.

Thankfully, Pope Francis has pretty much already spelled it out for us…

Six months ago, he gave a general audience reflecting on what makes for a happy family life, and his words were so simple, and yet also very profound. I keep coming back to them again and again, and now seems like the perfect time to think about them once more.

Pope Francis said there are three phrases that are key to building a happy family life.

They are:


How Do You Know What Belongs in the Bible?

The most overlooked part of the Bible, apologetically speaking, is the table of contents. It does more than just tell us the pages on which the constituent books begin. It tells us that the Bible is a collection of books, and that implies a Collector. The identity of the Collector is what chiefly distinguishes the Protestant from the Catholic.

The Four Mini-Gospels

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Is 11:2,3).

1  Fear of the Lord
2.  Piety
3  Knowledge
4  Fortitude
5  Counsel
6  Understanding
7  Wisdom

The Seven Beatitudes (Mt 5: 1-9). 


The Urge to Prophesy

Back when I was in high school (Cascade High 1976: Home of the Bruins, School of Pride), one of the trendier ideas being talked about was Futurism — literally, the “study of the future.” I remember watching some film with Orson Welles narrating it at his most pompous “I am from the elite, and this is what we are all talking about at our wine and cheese parties” best. And being a dumb kid from the suburbs, I took him at his word because he had a beard, an important-sounding voice, and his thoughts seemed really smart, almost English smart, which, as every American high schooler knows, is as smart as a person can get. The only thing more potent than getting Welles to intone something about The Future was to get an English guy to do it. That more or less established whatever was being asserted as a Scientific Fact.


“What is Truth?” Said the Scientist to the Theologian.

“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’

Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’
Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’  And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all.’ ” John 18:37-38 (KJV)


Speaking Truth

“This is great stuff!” the friend sitting next to me said, smacking the top of the bar to emphasize the point, which summoned the bartender over to ask if we wanted another round. My friend explained that he’d been talking about a book, but yes, now that you’re here we’ll have another.

An Old Testament scholar, he’d been raving about St. Augustine’s de Magistro and Augustine’s profound answers to questions about truth he was pursuing. Indeed, Augustine asked questions he had not known to ask. He said he had found himself, not by conscious intention and a little to his surprise, reading more and more of the classics—even, though he’s an Evangelical, St. Thomas—and fewer and fewer contemporary books. The old books answered the questions he was asking much better than the modern ones.


Beyond Good & Evil

Somewhere in a novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline is a description of the happiest man in the world. He is sitting in the rubble of an obliterated railway station, somewhere in Germany at the end of the War. Details of time and place are unimportant.

For the sun is shining, and the man has a crust of stale bread, and some dirty but drinkable water.

The moment is baked into my memory as if I’d seen it myself. Perhaps I have. For I’ve had, in a journalistic way, glimpses of refugees, especially those from Cambodia who crawled somehow into eastern Thailand in the time of the Khmer Rouge. Many arrived without having eaten for days.

Too, I have felt hunger myself, and can attest it is the best sauce.


Are You Spiritually Neglecting Your Children?

Blessed Cardinal Newman once said that “Faith is illuminative, not operative; it does not force obedience, though it increases responsibility; it heightens guilt, but it does not prevent sin. The will is the source of action.” When you take a moment to analyze Blessed Newman’s words, they can easily be directed toward the spiritual relationship between parent and child.


Catholicism: the Original Mega Church

This picture of Madison Square Garden last night reminded me of the pictures you sometimes see of Joel Osteen’s church and other mega churches.

Permit us a bit of triumphalism, but the Catholic Church is the original mega church.

We are full of faults and flaws because we are full of sinners, but a papal visit reminds the world that there are more people who care about religion than those who don’t and even in decline, the Catholic Church is a force to be reckoned with.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s