YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one
flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:7-9)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Moments before the start of the parish Mass on that Sunday morning, I stood in the church vestibule with the lector and server waiting for the processional hymn to begin and, happening to look down, spotted a button on the carpet. Large and decorative, I’d guessed it had fallen off a woman’s dress or coat. Bending down to retrieve it with the intention of dropping it in the church lost-and-found box after Mass, I spotted Daphne just as I arose. For a split second I froze at the juxtaposition: a handsome button fallen to the floor; an attractive young woman alone, discarded.
In fact, I didn’t put the button in the lost-and- found box after Mass. I kept it as a reminder to pray for Daphne who, during the preceding year, had often caught me after Mass to ask prayers in her struggle to survive a broken marriage. Week by week, choking words delivered through tears, she’d told me of betrayals discovered, lies revealed. Still, though, she loved him, she said. What should she do, she asked? I didn’t know, I told her, holding her shaking hands. We hugged, she left, and I prayed.
It’s been more than a decade now, and most Sundays we just smile at each other, that enough for the moment. When we do talk, I remind her that she’s still alive, something she thought impossible at the start, at the break, at the moment she first felt like a button ripped from a garment and tossed to the floor.
For quite some time after picking up that button from the church floor, it lay on my desk. There were questions: Whose was it? Was someone looking for it? How did it come undone? And perhaps most importantly, what had it once fastened? After all, that’s the job of a button, be it large and decorative or the simplest bit of utilitarian plastic. Something that used to be securely fastened was now undone. What held two things together had fallen off, a connection broken, an unravelling. The button reminded me to pray for Daphne.
The gospel passage we hear today invites us to consider the Christian ideal of marriage. Jesus said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:7-9) It sounds simple, direct. It’s God who does the joining, God who holds together. Then my gaze moves to the lost button.
I’m guessing it’s not so difficult for a marriage to become undone; not so difficult for a button to fall off in the friction of two lives stressing to become one; perhaps even not so difficult living in the dark void left where once a button held fast. Then, one day, perhaps even in church, one notices the button on the floor and admits that things have changed, a life together has become two lives apart.
When Christians are joined in the sacrament of matrimony, a THREESOME (not a twosome) is created, God the ever-present but unseen partner. And when one of the members of this sacred trinity is lost, the sacramental bond is fractured. When death calls a human partner away, the marriage ends. When God becomes the absent partner, having been pushed aside or put out completely, the human relationship may continue, but it’s no longer the holy sacrament it once was.
That button, large and decorative, is still on my desk, ever-present reminder of two things once joined now apart. Yet when, on most Sundays, I see Daphne in church, I no longer associate her so directly with the button. I can tell even by her smile that God has carried her through to a new place, to a new peace.