Man and Woman
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

This week we have seen on television many acts of heroism during the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy. Like a knight in shining armor, actor Richard Gutierrez in a borrowed speedboat, came to the rescue of actress Christine Reyes and her family stranded by floodwaters on the roof of their house. We read of a father who drowned trying to save his children. We see pictures of mothers who try to keep their children together under makeshift shelters. These are touching images of noble deeds that men or women are capable of.

A man is different from a woman as the title of a book suggests, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. It is this difference which makes life beautiful. What kind of world would there be if everyone is a man or everybody is a woman. As the French say, “Long live the difference.” Man and woman are complementary to each other.

The two readings this Sunday speak of this complementarity. The first reading from the book of Genesis tells the story of the first man and woman. God took a rib from Adam while he was asleep and fashioned a woman from this. Man and woman are equal in dignity. They share the same substance, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Such partnership between man and woman is even above blood relationship so that in marriage a man leaves his father and mother and becomes one flesh with his wife.

This partnership of man and woman in marriage is again taken up in the Gospel reading, when some Pharisees came to Jesus for his own opinion about divorce (Mk. 10:2). During his time there were different rabbinical opinions about divorce. There was the school of Rabbi Shammai who took a more conservative position, allowing divorce only in the case of adultery. There was also the more liberal position of Rabbi Hillel who allowed divorce for other grounds (such as criticism of one’s in-laws).

Instead of favoring one position over the other, Jesus reminded them that divorce was the exception, not the rule. Divorce was a concession given by Moses due to the hardness of their heart. Jesus then mentioned the Genesis story above and ended it with, “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate”(Mk. 10: 9). Jesus focused on God’s plan for man and woman and completely departed from both rabbinical traditions by absolute prohibition of divorce.

This may be bitter medicine for those who are advocating the legalization of divorce in the Philippines, or even are batting for a more liberal interpretation of laws for civil nullification of marriage (actually, divorce – Philippine style). Jesus is very clear regarding this matter. Jesus wants to give importance to God’s original plan of the partnership of man and woman.

Beside the Lord’s teaching on divorce, this Gospel story serves as a reminder for us about our basic stance regarding men or women. Due to family upbringing or because of our experiences, each one of us has taken a position regarding our relationship with men or women.

One stance is that of isolation, expressed in “I will have nothing to do with men (or women).” Boys and girls pass this stage of pre-adolescence. Some people carry this over or revert to this stage even in adult life. Another position is that of being against the other sex. It is a position of enmity as in, “I hate women (or men).” Such position is tantamount to hating half of the human race. Some traumatic experience may have driven some people to this extreme position. A more mature, humane, and divinely pleasing stand is that of partnership, friendship, and complementarity of man and woman. This is based on respect for each other as equal beings who are fashioned by God from the same substance (dust and flesh).

As one wise man said, “Eve is not taken from Adam’s feet that he may abuse her, nor is she taken from Adam’s head that she may rule over him, rather she is taken from Adam’s side that they may be partners in life.”