FROM A READING FOR OCT. 7, 27TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.' - Genesis 2:18

Biblical morality is moving, not static. It constantly changes. What's permitted in one century can be forbidden in the next. Almost always, when it comes to the latter, our sacred authors are one moral step ahead of the cultures in which they live.

This is the case with Sunday's Genesis (2:18-24) passage. Writing in the 10th century BCE, the author is concerned not only that "man" not exist alone, but also that the one who becomes his partner is someone made of the same "stuff from which he's made.

Unlike our narrative, many early creation myths taught that the gods created women out of inferior material, permitting men, who were made of superior stuff, to lord it over them. Prehistoric cave paintings also indicate that some primitive humans experimented with animal partnering.

People, please
That seems to be why the writer emphatically mentions no animal "proved to be the suitable partner" for the man. If man is destined to have a helpmate, it's going to be another human.

Because only the woman is made from man, the sacred author has an opportunity to present an "etiological" reason for human intercourse. (An etiological explanation simply explains something in a way that applies to the everyday life of the reader: for example, "Why's the sky blue?" "Because baseballs are white.")

In this case, the couple becomes one through intercourse because at one time, before Yahweh took part of the man to form a woman, they were one. Intercourse is a sign of that primal unity.

But even though "the two of them become one flesh," the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures permit that one flesh to be separated through divorce - something which Jesus forbids in our Gospel passage (Mark 10:2-16).

His disciples are confused. Jesus' morality goes beyond accepted Jewish morality. Jesus assures His followers that no divorce has always been Yahweh's plan; but, because of strong human opposition, God put that plan on a back burner until Jesus' arrival.

Only a rare Jew would have obeyed such a strict law. But like so many other things, Christian marriage is also affected by Jesus' dying and rising.

Be like children
Perhaps that's why Mark immediately adds the story of Jesus and the children, and zeroes in on Jesus' remark, "Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." The childlike quality Jesus seems to praise is an ability to learn and grow. No one can be His follower unless he or she is willing to evolve, to constantly change their value systems.

No wonder the Hebrews (2:9-11) author makes the suffering we both endure the connecting point between Jesus and us. If Jesus' ministry revolves around surfacing God's kingdom - God working in our daily lives - He's got to be concerned with helping us change throughout life. Such change entails psychological suffering and death.

Only those who are committed to experiencing such changes in their lives will be able to surface God's kingdom in their midst. The "unchangeable" will probably get into heaven one day - but sadly, they'll never experience God's heaven existing around them right here and now.