FROM A READING FOR OCT. 4, 27TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'Let the children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs...' -- Mark 10:14

Biblical morality revolves around relationships. That's why Sunday's three readings are so significant.

As Christians, we stand in awe of the relationship Jesus of Nazareth has with us. The author of the letter to the Hebrews (2:9-11) couldn't have described it any better: "He 'for a little while' was made 'lower than the angels,' that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Therefore, He is not ashamed to call [us] brothers and sisters."

We're important enough to die for.

Yet, even before Jesus appears in history, our sacred authors were deeply concerned with how we relate to one another. The Yahwistic writer of Genesis (2:18-24), for instance, active almost 3,000 years ago, wasn't afraid to take on the culture of that age when passing on the well-known chapter-two myth of the creation of woman.

People and things
In the author's day and age, women were not only regarded as unequal to men; they were often looked upon as being sub-human. One need only check ancient Middle Eastern creation myths to see the belief that men were often formed from a different material than women.

But before the author gets to women, he or she must take care of animals.

We know from pre-historic European cave art that bestiality was practiced in the ancient world. That could be why the sacred author begins this particular myth by stating, "None [of the wild animals] proved to be the suitable partner for the man." That suitable partner had to be someone who is "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" -- made from the same stuff as man.

Because man and woman were originally one, they'll engage in acts of intimacy which will again make them one. That's quite a different relationship between men and women than the Yahwistic writer's 1,000-BC culture envisioned.

Mark's Jesus takes that relationship one giant step further (Mark 10:2-18). Though contemporary Jewish law permitted divorce under certain circumstances, Jesus outlaws it completely. He contends oneness is a permanent condition; it can't be broken.

No exceptions
Though modern psychologists bring up situations when a personal decision to become one with another wasn't made with full understanding of what such a decision entails -- and even Church law provides dispensations from some unions -- Jesus isn't talking about exceptions. He's stating a general principle: When two of His followers give their word to one another in such a serious, life-changing moment, that word is to be kept.

Our imitation of Jesus' dying and rising in our everyday life changes how we relate to others in that everyday life, especially those with whom we've vowed to be one.

It also changes how we relate to "insignificant" people in our lives, as Jesus' disciples discover at the end of our Gospel passage. Though they see the children as an avoidable aggravation, Jesus regards them as a sign of how His followers are to accept God's kingdom around them: with the openness with which a child accepts the daily happenings in his or her life. He then reinforces His belief by embracing and blessing them.

Normally, when biblical people bless someone or something, they're simply thanking God for the blessing which that person or thing already brings to their lives -- something His disciples hadn't noticed. Perhaps we'd live more fulfilling lives if we, like Jesus, also looked upon our relationships as blessings, not aggravations.